Marriage as a National Fiction: Represented Law in the Modern Novel 347605909X, 9783476059093 - EBIN.PUB (2023)

Marriage as a National Fiction Represented Law in the Modern Novel

Dagmar Stöferle

Marriage as a National Fiction


Marriage as a National Fiction Represented Law intheModern Novel

DagmarStöferle Institut für Romanische Philologie Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München München, Germany

ISBN 978-3-476-05909-3    ISBN 978-3-476-05910-9 (eBook) © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH, DE, part of Springer Nature 2022 The translation was done with the help of artificial intelligence (machine translation by the service A subsequent human revision was done primarily in terms of content. This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors, and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by the registered company Springer-Verlag GmbH, DE, part of Springer Nature. The registered company address is: Heidelberger Platz 3, 14197 Berlin, Germany



Introduction������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������   1 1.1 Novel and Marriage����������������������������������������������������������������������������   1 1.2 Marriage and Nation ��������������������������������������������������������������������������   4 1.3 Couple and Community����������������������������������������������������������������������   7 1.4 Text Corpus and Structure of the Work����������������������������������������������   9


Marriage Around 1800: Between Contract and Sacrament������������������  15 2.1 Secularization of Marriage? Sacramentality and Jurisdiction������������  15 Marriage as Metaphor and Dispositive ��������������������������������������������   17 Visibility, or Pauline Mystery������������������������������������������������������������   20 Process of Making Visible: The Couple Consensus Between Sacrament and Contract��������������������������������������������������������������������   27 From the Sacred State to the Moral State Purpose����������������������������   33 2.2 Band of Division: The Revolutionary Marriage Legislation��������������  41 Divorce����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������   41 Marriage��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������   45 Marriage Practice: Festival, Law, Origin������������������������������������������   48 2.3 Two or Many: Rousseau Between Social and Marriage Contract������  52 Julie as the General Will Personified������������������������������������������������   57 Modern Art of Government: Julie and Wolmar��������������������������������   70 Julie’s Death and the Question of Justice������������������������������������������   74 The Politics and Religion of Civil Marriage ������������������������������������   78


Manzoni: Law and Novel��������������������������������������������������������������������������  83 3.1 Couple Poetics������������������������������������������������������������������������������������  83 3.2 Renzo in the Process of Profanation ��������������������������������������������������  91 Storia della Colonna Infame: Intertextual Self-Assertion����������������   94 The Narrator as the Judges’ Judge����������������������������������������������������   97 Metapoetics: Logic and Rhetoric of Improbability��������������������������  102 Legal Poetology: Earthly Criminal Law and Marriage Law������������  105 Renzo’s Irony������������������������������������������������������������������������������������  111 Ambivalent Politics of Affect������������������������������������������������������������  114 Between Mass and Power: Renzo’s Disappointed Revolution ��������  119 Conversion, Impure and Natural ������������������������������������������������������  125 Nascitur Renzo: The Dream of the Profane Narrative����������������������  140 v



3.3 Lucia in the Process of Sacralization�������������������������������������������������� 143 Marianna de Leyva as Geltrude/Gertrude ����������������������������������������  143 Included and Excluded Passion��������������������������������������������������������  146 Gertrude, la Signora��������������������������������������������������������������������������  149 Between Action and Language: On the Question of Guilt����������������  157 Latent Love: Gertrude – Lucia����������������������������������������������������������  166 Lucia’s voto: Conversion as an Error������������������������������������������������  174 The Solution of the Vow, Critical of Law������������������������������������������  183 Communauté Inavouable������������������������������������������������������������������  190 4

Between Märchen and Novel: Goethe’s Marriage Experiments������������ 195 4.1 From the Marriage Novellas of the Ausgewanderten to the Utopia of Domination ������������������������������������������������������������������������ 197 Revolutionary Passions and Troubled Marriages������������������������������  197 Spouses and Legal Entities����������������������������������������������������������������  201 4.2 Excursus: Romantic Mating, Transcending Marriage (Novalis)�������� 210 4.3 Herrmann und Dorothea: Epic Disguise�������������������������������������������� 217 Marriage Idyll and Patriarchy (Voß’ Luise)��������������������������������������  219 From Dressing Gown … ������������������������������������������������������������������  230 … to Revolution��������������������������������������������������������������������������������  235 Marriage of Love and Revolution ����������������������������������������������������  238 Apotropaic Pairing����������������������������������������������������������������������������  243 Engagement as a Touching of Opposites������������������������������������������  254 ‘Purely Human’: Between Aesthetic and National Norm ����������������  260 4.4 Die Wahlverwandtschaften: Representation of the Production of a (Decision Not to) Divorce������������������������������������������������������������ 264 From the Attempt to the Fall ������������������������������������������������������������  267 Escalations����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������  272 Divorce Prevention����������������������������������������������������������������������������  282 The Ottilie Case: Double Law and Asymmetrical Appearance��������  291


Novels on Trial: Notre-Dame de Paris and Madame Bovary ������������������ 299 5.1 Dynastic Nuptials�������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 301 5.2 Marriages of Convenience������������������������������������������������������������������ 303 5.3 Quasimodo’s Wedding������������������������������������������������������������������������ 307 5.4 Production and Presentation �������������������������������������������������������������� 312


Close������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������ 319 6.1 Novel and Marriage���������������������������������������������������������������������������� 319 6.2 Marriage and Nation �������������������������������������������������������������������������� 324 6.3 Couple and Community���������������������������������������������������������������������� 328

References������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������ 331 Index�������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 349


CI Manzoni: Storia della Colonna Infame (1840), in: id., Tutte le opere, vol. II/1: I Promessi Sposi. Testo definitivo del 1840, ed. by Alberto Chiari and Fausto Ghisalberti. Milan: Mondadori 1963, pp.675–785. CS Rousseau: Contrat social, ou principes du droit politiques (1762), in: id., Œuvres complètes, vol. 3, ed. by Bernard Gagnebin and Marcel Raymond. Paris: Gallimard 1964, pp.347–470. FL Manzoni: Fermo e Lucia (1823), in: id., Tutte le opere, vol. II/3: Fermo e Lucia, eds. Alberto Chiari and Fausto Ghisalberti. Milan: Mondadori 1964, pp.1–669. HD Goethe: Herrmann und Dorothea (1797), in: id., Werther. Wahlverwandtschaften. Kleine Prosa. Epen, ed. by Waltraud Wiethölter (= vol. 8 of the Frankfurt edition). Frankfurt a. M.: Deutscher Klassiker Verlag im Taschenbuch 2006 (1994), pp.807–883. MB Flaubert: Madame Bovary (1857), ed. by Jacques Neefs. Paris: Librairie Générale Française 2008. ND Hugo: Notre-Dame de Paris. 1482 (1831), ed. by Benedikte Andersson. Paris: Gallimard (folio classique) 2009. NH Rousseau: Nouvelle Héloïse (1761), in: id., Œuvres complètes, vol. 2, ed. by Bernard Gagnebin and Marcel Raymond. Paris: Gallimard 1964, pp.1–793. OMC Manzoni: Osservazioni sulla morale cattolica (1855), in: id., Tutte le operediAlessandroManzoni, vol. III: Opere morali e filosofiche, ed. by Fausto Ghisalberti. Milan: Mondadori 1963, pp.1–250. PS Manzoni: I promessi sposi (1840), in: id., Tutte le opere, vol. II/1: I Promessi Sposi. Testo definitivo del 1840, ed. by Alberto Chiari and Fausto Ghisalberti. Milan: Mondadori 1963, pp.1–673. UA Goethe: Unterhaltungen deutscher Ausgewanderten (1795), in: id., Sämtliche Werke. Briefe, Tagebücher und Gespräche, vol. 9: Wilhelm Meisters theatralische Sendung. Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre.




Unterhaltungen deutscher Ausgewanderten, ed. by Wilhelm Voßkamp and Herbert Jaumann. Frankfurt a. M.: Deutscher Klassiker Verlag 1992, pp.993–1119. W Goethe: Die Wahlverwandtschaften (1809), in: id., Werther. Wahlverwandtschaften. Kleine Prosa. Epen, ed. by Waltraud Wiethölter (= vol. 8 of the Frankfurt edition). Frankfurt a. M.: Deutscher Klassiker Verlag im Taschenbuch 2006 (1994), pp.269–529.



If the consciousness of the latent presence of violence in a legal institution fades, it decays. (Walter Benjamin, “On the Critique of Violence” (1921), in: id. Gesammelte Schriften, vol. II.1, ed. Rolf Tiedemann and Hermann Schweppenhäuser, Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp 1977, pp.179–203; here: p.190.) … what pairs the pair is not a pair, without, of course, being an individual. What pairs and thus “is,” in the transitive sense that Heidegger demands here, is that which traverses and moves the existing, enraptures it and allows itself to be enraptured by it; in other words, that which carries it along, transcends it simultaneously and suddenly. This is neither one nor two, nor anything that can be counted. (Jean-Luc Nancy, “There is Sexual Intercourse” (2001), in: id. There is– Sexual Intercourse, ed. and transl. by Judith Kasper, Zurich: diaphanes 2012, pp.7–57; here: p.10.)


Novel andMarriage

From the very beginning, the history of the novel has been the history of justification. Hans Blumenberg called the novel the “genre of the bad aesthetic conscience” because its fictional reality expands that which is humanly possible.1 It is no accident, he shows, that Plato warns against poets in his work Republic. Novels not only depict reality, they also have an effect on it, to the extent that the homogeneity of a

 Hans Blumenberg, “Wirklichkeitsbegriff und Möglichkeit des Romans” (1963), in Hans Robert Jauß (ed.), Nachahmung und Illusion, Munich: Fink2 1969, pp.9–227. 1

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer-Verlag GmbH, DE, part of Springer Nature 2022 D. Stöferle, Marriage as a National Fiction,



1 Introduction

concept of reality is lost, their effect gains in significance and they can be regarded as the literary genre of modernity par excellence. By claiming to represent a world, the novel has become a (historical) philosophical object. In doing so, it is related to the ancient epic as, the original fictional reality of a state and criticized or justified as its successor formation. Where Hegel poists that in a bourgeois society which has institutionalized itself in the state, there can no longer be an epic and only a subjective novel of education and development, Georg Lukács, in his Theorie des Romans (The Theory of the Novel), attempts a renewal of the genre as an “epopoeia of the godforsaken world”2 and “form [of a] matured masculinity.”3 His theory of the novel has remained incomplete; the Dostoevsky monograph of which it was intended as a prelude was never written. However, the text remains central to the history of the novel because it pursues novel theory as modern theory and emphatically assumes that one can transcend “the social forms of life”4 with a literary genre. In this way, the novel becomes an aesthetic norm placed above the normativity of a ‘godforsaken world’ perceived as deficient. On the other hand, in his book Mimesis, whose latent Hegelianism is reminiscent of Lukács, Erich Auerbach does not explicitly place the genre of the novel at the centre of his interest, but rather an entire body of literature, which is described as ‘represented reality’ in selected examples from a span of almost 3000years.5 Nevertheless, even for the historical-processual concept of realism in Mimesis, the genre of the novel secretly plays an aesthetically normative role. Auerbach’s history of literature begins with The Odyssey, which is compared to the style of the Old Testament, and it ends with Virginia Woolf’s novel To the Lighthouse (1927), on which is once again elaborated that serious “attitude of the writer to the reality of the world” which the book pursues in the leitmotif of the mixture of genres. Couldn’t Auerbach’s ‘represented reality’, then, also be described as a represented right of literature, for which the novel occupies a key position? Among the texts analyzed in Mimesis, To the Lighthouse is the only one written by a woman; and perhaps not coincidentally, it is a novel that is about the story of a married couple. Now, as far as the representation of marriage in the novel is concerned, the topos of a supposed aesthetic resistance of the subject matter persistently arises and persists in modernity. The ubiquity of marriage as a motif in Enlightenment and Romantic literature goes hand in hand with the fact that its representability as a story and a narrativizable form of progression is contested, or at least aesthetically devalorized. If one understands marriage novels as texts that describe the history of a couple from marriage to the death of one or both partners, one will indeed find little in the literature of around 1800, or one will involuntarily

 Georg Lukács, Die Theorie des Romans (1916), Bielefeld: Aisthesis Verlag 2009, p.68.  Ibid., p.66. 4  Cf. Ibid., p.111ff. 5  Erich Auerbach, Mimesis. Dargestellte Wirklichkeit in der abendländischen Literatur, Tübingen/ Basel: Francke9 1994 (1946). 2 3

1.1  Novel andMarriage


come across its supposed opposite, the adultery novel.6 Even the sociological findings, according to which marriage becomes a ‘problem’ in the modern age, are to a certain extent under the spell of the Romantic topos of an incompatibility between a processual marriage and instantaneous love. Thus, in the preface to Liebe als Passion (Love as Passion), Niklas Luhmann explicitly states that he has primarily drawn on “second- and third-rate literature” for the argument.7 While the aesthetic standardization of real views on marriage can apparently best be demonstrated in texts of inferior literary quality, the ‘great novels’ only play a prominent role where the subversion of real social standardization is at stake. This means that it is in the ‘realistic’ novel, of all places, where it seems to be tacitly assumed that marriage is to be understood as a metaphor for the critique of time and society. With the texts examined in this thesis, my aim is not least to situate and explain this seemingly self-evident metaphorization historically in a prehistory of the adulterous novel. The aesthetic marginalization of marriage as a narrative form of progression, as what Blumenberg calls a coherent context, conceals a process of social standardization in which literature, as we know at least theoretically, is itself supposed to have played a decisive role. In order to be able to shed light on this literary process of norming, it is necessary to shift the perspective to the form in which marriage is represented: the proof of reality that literary texts strive for in the representation of marriage does not result from the course of a marriage, but from the form in which this marriage is concluded. In this context, marriage comes to the fore not only as a substantive element of the plot, but as a form that affects, not least, the very notion of marriage. Thus, an important hypothesis of this thesis lies in the fact that one cannot assume a real-historical conception of marriage that would be depicted in the literary text. In the narrative elaboration of marriage, the text does not fabricate a particular reality, but a (marriage) right of that reality, the reality reference of which can consequently go beyond a single, arbitrary couple and affect the whole society that is under this ‘real’ right. In this sense, then, the marriage novel – like the adultery novel– would also be a ‘social novel’. At the same time, such a novel of marriage can be considered as a novel of adultery, namely when either its own form is reflected as potentially failing, or when with this form the break with the supposedly real form of the law of marriage is intended. Depending on whether the focus is on the contract or the transgression, a novel such as Rousseau’s La nouvelle Héloïse (The New Heloise) or Goethe’s Die Wahlverwandtschaften (Elective Affinities) can be analyzed as a novel of marriage or of adultery.8  Cf. on this the dissertation by Bettina Recker, “Ewige Dauer” oder “Ewiges Einerlei”. Die Geschichte der Ehe im Roman um 1800, Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann 2000. Using the marriage narrative pursued here in Johann Timotheus Hermes’ Für Eltern und Ehlustige (1789), Jean-Paul’s Siebenkäs (1796/1797) and Goethe’s Wahlverwandtschaften (1809) as examples, Recker identifies different literary strategies that, in principle, correspond to genre conventions (didaxe, satire and novel). Thus the novel Wahlverwantdschaften is also subsumed under the strategy of ‘subversion’. 7  Niklas Luhmann, Liebe als Passion. Zur Codierung von Intimität, Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp 1994 (1982).– Indeed, the marginality of Rousseau in Liebe als Passion is striking, who, with the Nouvelle Héloïse, wrote a kind of script for the ‘coding of intimacy’. 8  Cf. Tony Tanner, Adultery in the Novel. Tanner’s main texts are Rousseau’s La nouvelle Héloïse, Goethe’s Elective Affinities, and Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. 6



1 Introduction

Marriage andNation

The marriage fiction is a founding fiction whose product can be described, with Benedict Anderson, as an imagined community, but not necessarily also as a nation.9 In his book, Anderson famously emphasizes the importance of print media for the formation of nations, because with their collective reception, a homogeneous time consciousness of a social organism could emerge. Doris Sommer has deepened this finding by highlighting a specific, genuinely ‘romantic’ theme that reinforces the effect of national identification.10 It is the combination of eroticism and politics that she identifies in a series of nineteenth-century Latin American novels and profiles as a genuine literary contribution to the nation-building of the Latin American states. In doing so, she also deliberately reads second-rate, melodramatic novels,11 in order to restore a forgotten or repressed history to marginalized states in a cultural studies-­ postcolonial (foreign) perspective.12 The procedure is interesting for the present work insofar as it deliberately instrumentalizes the concept of nation in terms of literary politics and implicitly points to its ambivalence. It can only be poorly applied to the European novel, because one is immediately confronted with a problematic connection between nationalism and (bio-) politics.13 A national-political rehabilitation of texts such as Hugo’s Notre-Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre Dame) or Goethe’s Herrmann und Dorothea actually only seems conceivable under the condition that one’s own nation is in the situation of an external or extreme political threat. As a concept in historical and political science, the nation is and remains a controversial concept, since it has, precisely in its organic metaphorical nature, a tendency to be as individualizing as it is totalizing.14 In this respect, the aspects that Doris Sommer deliberately excludes from her analysis come to the fore in this work almost by neccessity: marriage– instead of love– and law– instead of politics.  Benedict Anderson, The Invention of the Nation. Zur Karriere eines folgenreichen Konzepts, Frankfurt a. M./New York: Campus Verlag2 1996 (Engl. Orig. 1983). 10  Doris Sommer, Foundational Fictions. The National Romances of Latin America, Berkeley/Los Angeles/London: University of California Press 1991. 11  “My reading consciously delays the ultimate questions of meaning, because I am more concerned with suggesting how these books achieved their persuasive power than determining if they had any right to do so. The foundational fictions are philosophically modest, even sloppy. Lacking the rigor that would either keep levels of meaning secret or show how that was impossible, these novels hypostatize desire as truth and then slide easily between them. With the exception, perhaps, of María (1867), these novels are not trapped in unproductive impasses.” (Ibid., p.45). 12  Cf. Ibid., pp.1–29. 13  For a differentiation of Sommer’s thesis in the history of literature and discourse with regard to the European novel, see Wolfgang Matzat, “Der Bürger und die Frau von Stand. La Nouvelle Héloïse und die Folgen. Überlegungen zum Verhältnis von Eros und Polis im französisch- und spanischsprachigen Roman”, in: Stephan Leopold, Gerhard Poppenberg (eds.), Planet Rousseau. Zur heteronomen Genealogie der Moderne, Paderborn: Fink 2015, pp.113–130. 14  Slavoj Žižek, “Genieße Deine Nation wie Dich selbst! Der Andere und das Böse– Vom Begehren des ethnischen ‘Dings’”, in: Joseph Vogl (ed.), Gemeinschaften. Positionen zu einer Philosophie des Politischen, Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp 1994, pp.133–164. 9

1.2  Marriage andNation


In a certain sense, hypostasizing eroticism as politics goes against the historical fact that modern nations and nation-states did not arise from love, but from wars. That nations are founded on wars is also emphasized in research on nations and nationalism.15 Without being able to go into this extensive research in more detail here, the observation of the “Janus face[s] of the modern nation,”16 which combines the repression of violence with a promise of participation, is also central to the texts analyzed here. For Rousseau, “radical politics”17 represents a phantasm that revolves around the problem of violence even before the French Revolution; and when Goethe, Manzoni, and Hugo write about marriage after or even during the Revolutionary Wars, these fictions also aim at overcoming foundational violence. In general, in the course of my textual readings, I have encountered the question of whether marriage and marriage law should not be made even more fruitful for the study of nationalism. For example, historian Nancy F. Cott’s book Public Vows (2002) is an extremely compelling history of the American nation as an account of its marriage law.18 Situated between law and religion, freedom and coercion, privacy and publicity, marriage law institutes, as it were, an imagined body of the nation. Moreover, marriage and nation can be conceived as analogous concepts in several respects: First, like the nation, the marriage of the Christian West is an entity conceived as indissoluble. Just as the nation founds a new us in which an old one must be forgotten, marriage founds a new family that replaces (in historically different ways) an old family. And while civil marriage is emerging in the same wake as the French state-nation, contemporary debates about marriage coincide with a renewed virulence of nationalism. In the case of Denis de Rougemont’s 1938 book L’amour et l’Occident (Love in the Western World), one can indeed speak of an attempt to overcome national idiosyncrasies in a ‘true’ community.19 The book has become known for its idiosyncratic reading of Tristan and Isolde. Rougemont reads the medieval story as a founding myth for adultery and for all Western literature. It represents a myth that has a real effect on the body politic.20 He identifies this myth of passion following a death wish as a religious heresy, a Cathartic-Gnostic delusion and ‘oriental’ core of

 Cf. Joseph Jurt, Sprache, Literatur und nationale Identität. Die Debatten über das Universelle und das Partikulare in Frankreich und Deutschland, Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter 2014, pp.3f. (with further references). 16  Ibid., p.3. 17  Helmut Pfeiffer, “Radikale Politik. Rousseau und die Aporien der Aufklärung”, in: Richard Faber, Brunhilde Wehinger (eds.), Aufklärung in Geschichte und Gegenwart, Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann 2010, pp.137–156. 18  Nancy F.Cott, Public Vows. A History of Marriage and the Nation, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press 2002. 19  Denis de Rougemont, L’amour et l’Occident (1938), Paris: Plon 1972. 20  Cf. also Tanner, Adultery in the Novel, pp. 89 f.; further Peter von Matt, Liebesverrat. The Faithless in Literature, Munich: Hanser 1989, pp.70–72. 15


1 Introduction

the Occident that has shaped all love literature of the West.21 The fourth of the seven books, Le mythe dans la littérature, contains a history of literature as a history of the profanation of the love myth. From the Romance of the Rose to Wagner, Rougemont describes a destructive passion for love that tends to encompass all areas of life: “[L]e contenu du mythe et ses fantômes envahissent les domaines les plus divers: politique, lutte des classes, sentiment national, tout devient prétexte à ‘passion’ et déjà s’exalte en ‘mystiques’.”22 The connection between eros and politics that Doris Sommer endorses presents itself here as a catastrophic worst case scenario. In order to get out of the constructed dialectic of Orient and Occident, Eros and Agape, Rougemont now postulates marriage as a political counter-myth. In the concept of marriage, which centers on fidelity and agency, the dialectic is to be resolved and Eros rescued. In marriage, the passion of love is to become humanly bearable, fruitful, and, as a sacralized secularism, communitarian. As far as the sexes are concerned however, Rougemont’s concept of marriage remains profoundly conservative: marriage is a male decision, which is not only –conventionally, as it were– about “le choix d’une femme pour toute la vie” (“the choice of a woman for a lifetime”), but, one reads, about a bet on the woman: “choisir une femme, c’est parier” (“choosing a wife is a wager”).23 It is only through the man that woman becomes a whole person, by which she is ultimately identified with that false passion which must be conquered. Thus, significantly, Rougemont cannot think of any real human couples (neither heterosexual nor homosexual) as examples of right, conjugal love, but primarily of male mystics (such as John of the Cross, for example).24 It is therefore not surprising that, against this background, Rousseau’s novel La Nouvelle Héloïse is recognized in L’amour et l’Occident as a better example among the bad examples, namely as one in which marriage is at least aspired to.25 In contrast, it will be shown that a passionate couple relation in which the man also becomes the great unknown is at the heart of the text. Most consistently, however, the tension of maximum difference and maximum promise of community is maintained in Manzoni’s novel. In order to anticipate the basic tendency here as well, Goethe sketches two different conceptions of law in order to project them onto gender relations. In other words, the novel vacillates between ‘myth’ and proper law. Thus, in the relationship between marriage and nation, it must perhaps be emphasized that I do not intend my textual readings to revalorize either the concept of nation or a concept of national literature. But I do assume that precisely those texts

 Cf. Barbara Vinken (ed.), Translatio Babylonis. Unsere orientalische Moderne, Paderborn: Fink 2015. 22  “The content of the myth and its ghosts invade the most diverse domains: politics, class struggle, national sentiment, everything becomes a pretext for ‘passion’ and already exalts itself in ‘mystics’”. Rougemont, L’amour et l’Occident, p.263. The following book, “Amour et guerre” then describes the political implications of this ‘myth’: the bloody emergence of the imaginary body of the nation from a passionately discredited revolution. 23  Ibid., p.327. 24  Ibid., p.350. 25  Ibid., pp.233–236. 21

1.3  Couple andCommunity


that are rubricated in literary history as national literature and that at the same time exhibit categories of national attribution always call these categories and categorizations into question. The marriage novel is thus to be questioned less in terms of its national-literary power than in terms of its critical-epistemic potential in relation to the thinking of community.


Couple andCommunity

While it is generally problematic to think of union– be it a national or occidental-­ European one– in the figure of a union of love (because it implies an exclusion mechanism) the figure of the couple has the merit of being able to account for such mechanisms because of its inherent difference. If one wants to be able to grant the novel a right of its own without normative prejudice, this can only be done if, instead of a projected ‘joint work’, the couple is brought into view as a relational unit in relation to the (marriage) right it represents. For as soon as a text realizes, objectifies, or legalizes the couple as a particular union (lovers, family, church, state, nation), it violates, one might say, the novel’s law of representing union as a genre. As a differential identity, the couple marks both the premise and the limit of the novel. With Jean-Luc Nancy, I thus assume a relationality that precedes being, without which there could be no individuals.26 Nancy’s re-reading of Maurice Blanchot’s La Communauté inavouable (The Unavowable Community) (which itself has parallels to Rougemont’s philosophical ‘marriage novel’) is revealing insofar as it highlights the problematic textual status of La Communauté inavouable precisely in the second part of the text, where Blanchot seemingly glides abruptly from political (community) discourse to the “Communauté des amants” (“lovers’ community”). Blanchot’s negative-­paradoxical concept of community is most succinctly summed up in the formula “la communauté de ceux qui n’ont pas de communauté” (“the community of those who have no community”).27 In the second part of his book, he illustrates this concept, which he combines with a decidedly political claim, by reading a literary text, Maladie de la mort by Marguerite Duras. Her narrative, which depicts an intimate sexual intercourse set in an enigmatic contractual relationship, is hypothetically rewritten by Blanchot. He gives Duras’s open-ended scene a specific outcome by insinuating male penetration as the killing of the woman by the man:

 Jean-Luc Nancy, La Communauté désavouée, Paris: Galilée 2014. Cf. the last sentence with which Nancy concludes his rereading of Blanchot’s La Communauté inavouable: “Toute ontologie est trop courte, qui avant l’être ne remonte pas au rapport. Et toute politique est trop longue, qui prétend se fonder en ontologie.” (p.160). 27  Maurice Blanchot, La Communauté inavouable, Paris: Les Éditions de Minuit 1983, p.83. 26


1 Introduction Ou bien, et c’est l’inavouable, s’unissant à elle selon sa volonté, il lui a aussi donné cette mort qu’elle attendait, dont il n’était pas jusque-là capable, et qui parachève ainsi son sort terrestre– mort réelle, mort imaginaire, il n’importe.28

With this rewriting, the intimate scene of the couple’s encounter becomes an event of Blanchot’s conception of community. In his extensive commentary, Nancy has emphasized the change of discourse in the second part of La Communauté inavouable, which is otherwise untypical of Blanchot’s writings. Here, literature (Duras’s text) is not simply an object, but plays an operative role.29 By sacralizing the woman’s bodily surrender described by Duras into a Eucharistic offering, the consequences of which he rewrites in real-imaginary terms, Blanchot gives his speaker position a paradoxical status. In this respect, it is no coincidence that the title word of inconceivability falls precisely here– in the ‘completion’ of Duras’s text. Nancy describes Blanchot’s procedure as a mythopoetics that simultaneously binds and divides its readers. For the context of the fictions of marriage and union at issue here, it is interesting that Nancy recalls Blanchot’s normative speech posture to Jesus’ words suspending judgment on the adulterous woman: “Un homme comme une femme, un homme-femme, un écrivain, peut-être aussi semblable au messie chrétien qui un jour écrivait dans le sable, éludant les questions à propos d’une femme adultère.”30 Unlike the biblical scene, in which people disperse and acquittal can be hoped for, Blanchot’s disengagement from judging prophesies a compelling, political sense (“un sens politique astreignant”31) that is an authoritative promise and a threat in one. There seems to be almost no room left for the mediation of act and language (parole). In this respect, Nancy is also to be agreed with when he calls for a relationality of the couple against the radical asymmetry developed by Blanchot. In the marriage fictions in question here, sexual intercourse, in marriage terms: copulatio carnalis, is never at the centre of the representation, but as a potentially marriage-constitutive criterion, it forms a kind of figural vanishing point. ‘Mythopoetics’, one might say, ends where the novel begins, where the question of sexual intercourse remains open, where the couple is not ontologized but portrayed in the process of its relationality. For the textual readings, this means in concrete terms that we must ask in each case how the couple is modelled narratively and in what legal framework it is placed. Accordingly, the novel would not lie in the couple’s being, but in its becoming.

 “Or, and this is the unavowable, uniting himself to her according to his will, he also gave her this death that she was waiting for, of which he was not capable until then, and which thus completes his earthly fate- real death, imaginary death, it does not matter.” Ibid., p.92. 29  Nancy, La Communauté désavouée, p.17. 30  “A man as a woman, a man-woman, a writer, perhaps also similar to the Christian messiah who once wrote in the sand, evading questions about an adulterous woman”. Ibid., p.119. 31  Blanchot, La Communauté inavouable, p.93. 28

1.4  Text Corpus andStructure oftheWork


1.4 Text Corpus andStructure oftheWork The focus when selecting the literary texts analysed was on paradigmatic density rather than an exhaustive account of the marriage narrative in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The texts of interest were those in which marriage and nation were linked, in which marriage was treated as a ‘political issue’ and in which the couple’s love bond figured as the social bond of the community. Thus, so-called national authors came to the fore: Alessandro Manzoni’s novel I promessi sposi (The Betrothed) (1827/1840), Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s miniature epic Herrmann und Dorothea (1797) and Victor Hugo’s Notre-Dame de Paris. 1482 (1831). Other novels were eliminated by the fact that they did not allow for precisely this connection between marriage and political community/nation. Here, for French literature, the Comédie humaine should be mentioned first. Balzac, an author who himself brought his years-long relationship with Madame Hańska into the legal form of marriage only five months before his death on the 18th August 1850, denies with his novels that community-creating function, which will be considered in the following. In his Physiologie du mariage (1829), he ironically exhibits a feminine and incalculable affect that makes any community-creating and lasting connection between man and woman impossible and could at best lead to economic compensation.32 Furthermore, it was precisely not the ‘classical’ paradigm of the modern European novel that was at issue, and so the Anglo-American novels in particular– beginning with Richardson and Fielding and continuing through Jane Austen, Thackeray, Hawthorne, Emily Brontë, George Eliot and Henry James– were also excluded from the corpus of texts examined. While much could be (and continues to be) said about the Anglo-American marriage plot, the relevant texts would have required a different contextualization in terms of legal, cultural, and confessional history, which would have been beyond the scope of the present work. Instead of legal and metaphorological aspects, more ethical, psychological and affective criteria would then have had to be taken into account, which these texts very much problematize in the relationship between marriage and nation.33 Meanwhile, Manzoni’s Promessi sposi is crystallized as the heart of this work, pursuing the allegorical poetics of the couple. The choice of Goethe’s texts – Unterhaltungen deutscher Ausgewanderten (Conversations of German Emigrants) (1795), Herrmann und Dorothea and Die Wahlverwandtschaften (1809)– is justified by the fact that with this sequence of texts– in contrast to Manzoni’s optimistic narrative– a (negative) development of the marriage narrative can be shown. This center of  Cf. author, “Balzacs Ehe-Spekulationen. Ökonomie des Nicht-Wissens und Selbstaffektion in der Physiology du mariage”, in Gesine Hindemith, Dagmar Stöferle (eds.): Der Affekt der Ökonomie. Speculative Narrative in Modernity, Berlin: De Gruyter 2018, pp.61–83. 33  From the sheer volume of literature, we might refer to Lauren Berlant’s reading of Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter (1850): Lauren Berlant, The Anatomy of National Fantasy. Hawthorne, Utopia, and Everyday Life, Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press 1991; and the recent volume on the marriage plot in British literature: Elsie B. Michie, Jill Nicole Galvan (eds.), Replotting Marriage in Nineteenth-century British Literature, Columbus: The Ohio State University Press 2018. 32


1 Introduction

Manzoni’s and Goethe’s formally experimenting marriage fictions is followed by reference texts leading up to Flaubert’s Madame Bovary (1857). In this context, Rousseau’s epistolary novel La Nouvelle Héloïse (1761), written before the French Revolution, proves to be discourse-establishing insofar as it anticipates the problem of a position of politico-legal sovereignty that has become vacant and, with ‘Clarens’, attempts to create a substitute collective that– as the name suggests– is supposed to be transparent, translucent to its origin. This work begins with a historical and discourse-historical part (Chap. 2), which is intended to uncover the metaphorical surplus of the concept of marriage. For this tracing of the marriage discourse, different sources are consulted: theological and legal-historical lexicons, theological doctrinal texts for the medieval-early modern moment, and for the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries increasingly historical works of law, legal and cultural-philosophical treatises. In terms of marriage law, the main area of interest is the marriage bond (vinculum matrimonii), which covers the areas of marriage impediments, marriage and divorce. Canonical marriage law was formed between the twelfth century, when marriage as a sacrament became established, and the Council of Trent (1545–1563), which established a binding formal requirement for marriage. Central to the sacramentalization of marriage are the Pauline remarks in the fifth chapter of the Letter to the Ephesians (Eph 5:21–33), where the union between a man and a woman is described as a mysterium that refers to the communion of Christ with the Church. The concept of contract, on the other hand, comes to the fore where it is a question of making this mystery visible in marriage. Here the so-called consensus theory prevails over the copula theory. With the Tridentine, a legal and religious publicity of marriage emerges, in the center of which is the manifestation of consensus, the double, reciprocal speech act of husband and wife. The figure of the couple is expressed in this couple-consensus between sacrament and contract, which also stages the literary marriage stories. Since time immemorial, however, literature and iconography have also illustrated the extent to which the woman’s voice is one that is dispossessed from the outset. While the man ‘takes the woman’ with his yes, the woman’s yes resembles a confession and a ‘sprechen-machen’. A brief intermezzo on Protestant marriage law (using Luther as an example) and Protestant philosophy of marriage law (Kant, Fichte, Hegel) is intended to show how, with a certain time lag, marriage is also discussed here at the intersection of law and religion and in the question of what it represents. However, the marriage law of the French Revolution has an almost traumatic effect, which, due to its consistent conception of contract, produced a literally revolutionary freedom of marriage and, above all, of divorce. While canon law invents the couple as a metaphor for the Church, one may point out, the Revolution invents the ‘naked’ couple, the modern lovers who stand for nothing but themselves. Admittedly, this right is only valid for a very short time –freedom of divorce is restricted again bit by bit soon after Robespierre’s fall. But the coup was a success, especially on the other side of the Rhine, where the Code Civil was gradually gaining ground. It was also a success, even though Napoleon again curbs this marriage revolution in an empire with the double legislation of state and church. By reading Rousseau’s La Nouvelle Héloïse, the discourse-historical chapter seems only to end in a

1.4  Text Corpus andStructure oftheWork


methodologically inconsistent and anachronistic manner. Rousseau’s novel is to be presented here in a political and literary discourse-historical perspective. The text, as we know, only fits into the genre of novel with certain reservations, and the long, treatise-like entries make such a classification difficult. I read La Nouvelle Héloïse against the background of the contrat social as a ‘contrat de mariage’. If the revolutionaries could refer to Rousseau in their conception of law as acts of the common will, a recourse in the case of marriage was not readily possible. Rousseau, against a freedom of contract, holds to the indissolubility of marriage; it is the civil-­religious bond that is supposed to hold the social contract together. Against the background of the Contrat social, an astonishing, chiastic reversal of the relationship between politics and religion is revealed in Rousseau’s novel: while the legislator who institutes the common will is endowed with mythical-divinatory-religious qualities, the legislator Wolmar in Nouvelle Héloïse lacks precisely such abilities. In contrast, here it is Julie who receives a kind of divine certification through her marital consensus, which expresses the shared will of a new body. The couple Julie and Wolmar are ontologized in a unit of domination. In Clarens, they both rule, producing a ghostly economy and proto-nation. The third chapter is devoted to the reading of Alessandro Manzoni’s only novel, I promessi sposi. Here, too, the novel is in a sense unacknowledged; in an early preface, Manzoni still speaks of a ‘forbidden genre in modern literature’, and in the final version, there is only the storia, with a metadiegetic narrator. Set around 1630in the Duchy of Milan, the historical novel tells the story of Renzo and Lucia. It begins with a thwarted marriage and ends– after a long period of separation in which the lovers each go their separate ways– with their reunion in Milan’s plague hospital, their marriage in their native village, and their founding of a family in exile in the Republic of Venice. Manzoni’s novel irritates modern readers because of the implausibility of its ‘fairy-tale’ plot and a superficially strikingly ‘Christian’ poetic justice in which the godly would be rewarded and the apostate punished. Nevertheless, when it is appreciated, it is often not in its capacity as a modern novel, but for the astutely pessimistic critique of history that it unfolds. Evidence of this could be found not least in the treatise Del romanzo storico (On the historical novel), written at the same time as the novel was revised, in which Manzoni develops a fundamental incompatibility between fiction and history and literally puts the historical, i.e. his own novel, on trial. The law of marriage that comes into play in the plot and the law of the novel are thus closely intertwined. The legal origin of the novel as well as a genuine novel-poetics– the poetics of the couple– will be laid bare by shifting the difference between fiction and history to the protagonist-couple, which at the same time structures my presentation. The view of Renzo and Lucia begins in each case with their historical mirror image, with the two historical cases that frame the novel from its outside as well as from its inside. The Storia della Colonna Infame (The Column of Infamy), a story of the ointment smearers executed in Milan in 1630 for allegedly spreading the plague, is a judicial case, just as Lucia’s double, the nun Gertrude, who is forced to enter a convent with fatal consequences, is a historical judicial case. Manzoni, however, processes the two cases in different ways, indeed he contrasts two different forms of representation: judicial and


1 Introduction

aesthetic judgment. For while in the trial of the ointment smearers, the roles of perpetrator and victim are reversed and the trial judges are accused of being the actual guilty parties, Manzoni pushes Gertrude’s case (in the middle of the novel) into legal undecidability. Her passion for love, which leads to the breaking of her vows and to murder, remains ambivalent. And while the Storia della Colonna Infame – the legal judgment – is outsourced from the novel, Gertrude’s passion cannot be outsourced because– in both Renzo’s and Lucia’s cases– it is precisely her positivization, her turning or ‘conversion’, into a guilt-free agency that is at stake. Like Rousseau, Manzoni thus combines the motif of marriage with that of conversion, with the difference being that in the promessi sposi an exact symmetry is created between bride and groom. The result is a counter-gendered, double concept of fiction, with which the relationship between activation and passivation, sacralization and profanation is brought into a poetologically productive play of the novel. The fourth chapter turns to Goethe’s experiments with marriage. As the chapter structure, which follows a chronological course of the text, makes clear, marriage as a figure of overcoming crisis remains a poetologically fractured one in this work. What the texts have in common is the leitmotif of marriage as a cipher for the confrontation with a revolution that, from a political-historical point of view, is drawing ever closer. The chronological course of the texts corresponds to a development in genre from the small to the large form. The experiments begin with the small form of the novella, which Goethe introduces into German-language literature with the Unterhaltungen deutscher Ausgewanderten that were, so to speak, topical at the time. The passion that repeatedly erupts in the six novellas connotes the outbreak of revolutionary violence that either prevents a marriage from coming into being, or confuses an existing marriage through ‘adultery’, or else leads to legally suspect marital relations. Thus, the last two novellas explicitly negotiate an asymmetrical legal status of husband and wife that points to the inalienability of a relationship of domination. Märchen (The Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily), which concludes the collection of novellas, resolves this conflict by leaping into the genre of the ‘fairy tale’, turning the depiction of a mythical-allegorical justification of rule into the utopia of a renewed society. Goethe’s Märchen is the occasion for a digression on Novalis’s state-philosophical writing Glauben und Liebe oder Der König und die Königin (Faith and Love or the King and the Queen) (1798), because it directly follows Goethe’s text and dissolves the latter’s fairy tale into a quasi-real mythical, romantic couple relationship between king and queen. In the same year as Glauben und Liebe, Goethe’s great marriage experiment appears in the form of an epic. Herrmann und Dorothea, which, like Hugo’s Notre-Dame de Paris, comes closest to the notion of national fiction, in that this German marriage promise actually presents itself as overcoming ‘French’ revolutionary violence. Voß’s Luise (published from 1782) is the Enlightenment-sensitive textual model from which Goethe was able to take the idea of the marriage narrative. He transfers it – specifically, by means of a fetishized dressing gown – to a deconfessionalized, national-political context. Unlike in the novellas, one searches in vain for the word ‘passion’ in Herrmann und Dorothea. In order for this bourgeois patriarchal engagement to come about, Dorothea must be tricked into speaking. The epic poet’s second

1.4  Text Corpus andStructure oftheWork


stratagem against the national appropriation of the text, which in the end makes her speak not herself but her first bridegroom, the revolutionary sympathizer, can at best be put forward. The chapter leads into the novel of Die Wahlverwandtschaften, in which– after the break in the novellas, the marriage in Herrmann und Dorothea – the poetic examination of divorce is presented as the novel’s own right. Preventing divorce structures the novel of Die Wahlverwandtschaften to highlight the contradiction between a marriage of convenience compatible with society and an individualistic marriage of love in the couple of Charlotte and Eduard. Ottilie is the character who opposes the decisions demanded by marriage law with an aesthetic right to refuse to make decisions. The fifth chapter, Novels in Court, forms the unacknowledged conclusion of the work. Here, the marriage novel does not end, rather it takes a new beginning. But with Hugo’s Notre-Dame de Paris and Flaubert’s Madame Bovary the writer’s guilty conscience of depicting him ends, and as such their texts bring this work to a close. Hugo’s novel, as far as I can see, makes use of the marriage form as a formal content framework for the last time; however, this form is melodramatically fractured in that both the death of Esmeralda (and her ‘female family’) and the death of Quasimodo (and his ‘male family’) must be accepted. Flaubert adopts the element of love-death in Madame Bovary, but not the formal framework of a marriage. He shifts the becoming of marriage towards a (decaying) being. In matrimonial terms, he turns not to the coming into being of marriage, matrimonium in fieri, but to marriage in its duration, matrimonium in facto esse. Against the background of this formal difference, the juxtaposition of the two novels allows us to sketch the interface between the marriage novel and the adultery novel and a tipping point in the form of representation. In doing so, it becomes clear how the ground is taken away from under the marriage allegory in Flaubert’s novel.


Marriage Around 1800: Between Contract andSacrament

Who’s reading this? You’re asking me? Nobody, by Hercules! No one? Two at most, or none at all. O shame and pity! Why? What’s the matter? (Persius, Satires, I, 2f.: “quis leget haec? min tu istud ais? nemo hercule. nemo? vel duo vel nemo. turpe e miserabile! quare?”; quoted after: Aulus Persius Flaccus, Satiren, ed. Walter Kißel, Heidelberg: Winter 1990. The quotation marks, which would clarify the communication situation (according to Kißel), and solve a major problem of Persius’ philology, are omitted from the quotation above. In any case, when they begin their conversation in the ‘second preface’ to La Nouvelle Héloïse, the “Entretien sur les romans”, the fictional reader N and the fictional author R continue the game of hide-and-seek with this Persius quotation.)

2.1 Secularization ofMarriage? Sacramentality andJurisdiction Marriage is difficult to define as a concept, and this has been the case long before the recent debates about opening up marriage to other forms of cohabitation. The German Civil Code, which regulates marriage law as part of family law, does not contain a definition of marriage.1 The German Constitution also contains no such definition, but presupposes a concept of marriage. Although Article 6 of the German Constitution places marriage under special protection, it is left to civil law to define the concept. The derivation of essential characteristics is a matter of interpretation,  Cf. Alexandra Maschwitz, Die Form der Eheschließung. Ehe im Zentrum der Interessen von Staat und Religion, Bonn: V&R unipress 2014, p.149: “The ordinary legislator has regulated marriage in §§ 1303ff. BGB, but there is no legal definition of marriage.” 1

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer-Verlag GmbH, DE, part of Springer Nature 2022 D. Stöferle, Marriage as a National Fiction,



2  Marriage Around 1800: Between Contract andSacrament

the boundary of which is defined in Germany by the Federal Constitutional Court by an “inner domain of marriage”, a sphere of private life.2 Accordingly, legislation would split marriage into an outside and an inside. It would provide a legal framework for something which is actually invisible. The problem of a definitional justification is also evident in the German etymology of the term. The Old High German êwa, according to Grimm’s dictionary, can be traced back to “both aevum and lex, eternal order, rule, law and matrimony, a bond between man and woman instituted by god.” (ahd. êwa f. sowol aevum als auch lex, gleichsam ewige ordnung, regel, recht und matrimonium, ein von gott eingesetztes Band zwischen mann und weib [both aevum and lex, eternal order, rule, law and matrimony, a bond between man and woman instituted by god]).3 The division into an outer realm of legal arrangement and an inner, intimate private realm shows up in Grimm’s definition in a different way: Here an external, visible social bond between man and woman is distinguished from an invisible law instituted by God. But who establishes marriage? Law or religion? And what does it represent? An invisible or a visible bond between the couple? In today’s “common definition” of jurisprudence, the problem of justification and representation is sidestepped. Here, the talk is now of a ‘legal relationship’ that ‘comes about through the free consensus of husband and wife, is geared towards a permanent cohabitation and is recognised by the state’.4 The talk of ‘legal relationship’ is revealing in that all the other terms one might spontaneously associate with the concept of marriage – ‘institution’, ‘contract’, ‘sacrament’ – are already controversial and ideologically charged in today’s marriage debate. The ‘institution’ of marriage is subject to a process of corruption, privatization and individualization.5 If one looks at the history of marriage, this finding is hardly surprising, since civil marriage is a recent phenomenon. Legal differentiation began in the Western Christian Middle Ages, increasingly became a state-secular matter in the course of the Reformation and confessionalization, before culminating in state marriage legislation in the saddle period.6 That legislation, however, by no means dispensed with a definition of marriage, that is, with what in canonical legal

 Cf. Maschwitz, Die Form der Eheschließung, p.306.  Art. “Ehe” (1862), in: Deutsches Wörterbuch von Jakob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm; cited from: (03.03.2017). 4  Maschwitz, Die Form der Eheschließung, p.447. 5  Article 6 of the Basic Law does contain the norm of an institutional guarantee with the protection of marriage, but the ‘core elements’ of this institution are increasingly disputed (especially the different sex) and have long since raised the discussion about a constitutional change (cf. Maschwitz, Die Form der Eheschließung, p.306 ff.). Marriage does not appear at all in the French constitution. In the course of the introduction of the PACS, it is now being discussed here whether marriage is an institution at all or merely a contract.– On the dialectic of instituting and destituting marriage in Rousseau, see Judith Frömmer, “Versuchsanordnungen einer ‘petite Société’. Zur Institution der Ehe bei Rousseau”, in: Konstanze Baron, Harald Bluhm (eds.), Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Im Bann der Institutionen, Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter 2016, pp.203–223. 6  Cf. the pivotal habilitation thesis by Dieter Schwab, Grundlagen und Gestalt der staatlichen Ehegesetzgebung in der Neuzeit bis zum Beginn des 19. Jahrhunderts, Bielefeld: Gieseking 1967. 2 3

2.1  Secularization ofMarriage? Sacramentality andJurisdiction


terminology are the purposes of marriage, Augustinian: fides, proles, sacramentum.7 Article 7 of the French Constitution of September 3, 1791 takes this political metaphor to its extreme with the sentence “La loi ne considère le mariage que comme contrat civil”. 8 In contrast, today there are more and more voices that see marriage as a relic of the past and thus question it specifically as a legal concept.9

Marriage asMetaphor andDispositive The terminological difficulties, indeed the curious discovery that we might even be dealing with a thing of the past, all lead to the linguistic (critical) side of the problem. They draw attention to the metaphorical nature of marriage. That the boundaries between concept and metaphor are fluid is something we have known at least since Hans Blumenberg’s Paradigms for a Metaphorology. If we take the jurisprudential definition of marriage as a (legal) relationship (and not: contract, sacrament or the like) seriously, we are on the one hand confronted with the field of rhetoric, which is concerned with the relationship between the actual and the inauthentic, the visible and the invisible. Going by these jurisprudential and etymological examples, it’s ontologically difficult to determine whether one is dealing with a concept or a metaphor.10 If, on the other hand, one takes into account the social debates about marriage, in which the normativity and binding nature of the concept of marriage are at stake, one is referred back to the field of law, to the proximity of changes in  According to Augustine, marriage is not a good in itself (propter se ipsa), like wisdom or health, but, like doctrines, drink, food and sleep, a necessary good that justifies copulatio coniugalis. (Augustine, De bono coniugali/De sancta virginitate, ed. Patrick G. Walsh, Oxford: Clarendon Press 2001.). 8  “The law only considers marriage as a civil contract”. Constitution de 1791, Title II, Art. 2; cited in: (03.03.2017). 9  Cf. for example the assessment of Hans-Wolfgang Strätz: “The complete juridical shaping of marriage, especially of the law of marriage and marriage termination, which we perceive as normal, is a fruit of the Western Christian Middle Ages. If we look at the time before that, at the classical as well as at the Christianized Roman law, and if we look at the non-western cultures of this world, it becomes apparent that what marriage has always meant up to now, the recognized living together of man and woman (with the inclusion of children), was also lived without such legal differentiation and– in the good sense of the word– could function.” (“Legal Historical Development of State Marriage Law in Germany: Marriage and Marriage Dissolution from the Reichspersonenstandsgesetz 1875 to the 1st Marriage Law Reform Act 1976,” in Richard Puza, Abraham P.Kustermann (eds.), Beginn und Ende der Ehe. Aktuelle Tendenzen in Kirchen- und Zivilrecht, Heidelberg: C.F.Müller Juristischer Verlag 1994, pp.9–40; here: S. 40.) 10  Cf. on this, Susanne Lüdemann, who in her analysis of two central social metaphors– the contract and the body (both of which reappear in marriage)– states: “If one acknowledges the (ontological, though not heuristic) indistinguishability of concepts and metaphors; if one acknowledges that metaphors and concepts do not map resemblances but establish them for perceptual consciousness, and that the illusions of literalness, the effets de réel, appear only as secondary effects of symbolic and imaginary production, then one can no longer hope to control figuration badly or even avoid it altogether.” (Susanne Lüdemann, Metaphern der Gesellschaft. Studies on the Sociological and Political Imaginary, Munich: Fink 2004, p.46.) 7


2  Marriage Around 1800: Between Contract andSacrament

law and concepts, and to the relativity of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. For example, one could cast doubt on almost all other predicative elements of the cited relation defined by jurisprudence: Is it really about a ‘free consensus’, only about ‘husband and wife’, about a ‘permanent cohabitation’ and about recognition by a ‘state order’? If bindingness and normativity refer back to the midst of law, to the realm of jurisprudence and legislation, this means that the discourse-historical approach to the literary texts that will be re-read in the following must be predominantly from a legal-historical perspective. Legal history is the factual antithesis to the (legal) philosophical, pedagogical and literary debate on marriage, which was already controversial around 1800, and indeed always has been. It is a redundant thesis to see a normative effect on the modern conception of marriage in poetry and literature, love and family.11 However, these effets de réel were or are almost always seen unilaterally as a process of internalization, intimization, and privatization. Marriage and family then merge into a quasi-composite. But when it is undecided what a family is in the first place, and what kind of community marriage represents at all, it comes to the fore as a metaphor for society and as the ‘interior’ of the ‘whole’. The texts of Rousseau, Goethe, Manzoni and Hugo all deal with a marriage that is initiated, postponed, prevented and yet (not) concluded. And it will be shown that, with such a marriage narrative, they do not so much anticipate the so-called bourgeois nuclear family as describe a community that flows into an invisible family, into the ‘people’, the ‘nation’ or, even more generally, into an ‘art of the body’.12 Marriage as a metaphor can be linked to what Michel Foucault and, after him, Giorgio Agamben, analyze as a dispositif, an interdiscursive network used to regulate relations of power and function. It is true that Foucault (unlike Agamben) excludes the political-judicial from this functional network in order to draw attention from legal normation to the functioning of the norm. Thus, while he repeatedly addresses marriage in the context of his history of sexuality, he does so less to problematize it than to sketch a stylistics or aesthetics of existence from its normative edge. In analyzing the ancient discourse on marriage– and, significantly, not the marriage writing that exploded in popularity in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries– he proceeds (esp. in Le souci de soi) of a ‘conjugal existence’ centred on being a couple: “c’est une façon de vivre en couple et de n’être qu’un; le mariage appelle un certain style de conduite où l’un et l’autre des deux conjoints mène sa vie comme une vie à deux et où, ensemble, ils forment une existence commune” (“it is a way of living as a couple and being one; marriage calls for a certain style of conduct in which both spouses lead their lives as a couple and together, they form a common existence”).13 This dual and heterosexual relationship has, according to  As an early and representative example for many, cite: Paul Kluckhohn, Die Auffassung der Liebe in der Literatur des 18. Jahrhunderts und in der deutschen Romantik, Halle: Niemeyer 1922. 12  Cf. Lüdemann, Metaphern der Gesellschaft, p.205. Her analysis ends with an outlook on an analysis of the process of nationalization. 13  Michel Foucault, Histoire de la sexualité 3. Le souci de soi, Paris: Gallimard 1984, p.188. 11

2.1  Secularization ofMarriage? Sacramentality andJurisdiction


Foucault, a natural privilege, “à la fois ontologique et éthique” (“both ontological and ethical”).14 At the same time, this ‘dual existence’ is brought into a paradoxical relationship with the technique of the self he envisages: “Tel est le paradoxe de cette thématique du mariage dans la culture de soi, telle que l’a développée toute une philosophie: la femme-épouse y est valorisée comme l’autre par l’excellence; mais le mari doit la reconnaître aussi comme formant unité avec soi.” (“This is the paradox of the theme of marriage in the culture of the self, as developed by a whole philosophy: the woman-wife is valued as the other by excellence; but the husband must also recognize her as a unity with himself”)15 One might not be wrong to see in the ‘philosophy’ of which Foucault speaks here an allusion to Romanticism. However, Foucault does not pursue the paradox of the Romantic love marriage, in which marriage is identical with love and love is identical with marriage (especially in Fichte, Schlegel and Novalis) and which itself has the potential of a biopolitical dispositive,16; marriage is only touched upon, so to speak.17 One can cite two reasons for this: On the one hand, as only one form of the aesthetics of existence, it has the function of being able to set the actually avowed, subject-theoretical self-­ technique apart from it. Secondly, marriage as a legal institution is what Foucault methodologically seeks to exclude from the analysis of power. As a law that can theoretically be intentionally enacted by a sovereign subject, marriage is precisely what would prevent a strictly discursive analysis of power relations. This is exactly where Agamben comes in when he reintegrates the realm of the political-judicial, and in particular the interplay between law and religion, into the analysis of power.18 Incidentally, the lectures on ‘governmentality’ and sovereignty that interrupted, delayed and postponed Foucault’s history of sexuality already document that law and politics could not be ‘blindly’ left out of an analysis of power at all. The legal-­ historical view of marriage can now illuminate how political, legal and religious categories (‘sacrament’, ‘contract’, ‘consensus’, ‘reciprocity’, ‘asymmetry’, ‘protection’ and ‘obedience’) are negotiated within a ‘dispositif of marriage’ and in the relationship between couple and community. The basic problem that repeatedly arises in this discourse network is the question of representation, of the ritual, sacramental, legal or even aesthetic visualization of a double, consensual and free speech act.

 Ibid., p.191.– The ‘preliminary stage’ in classical Greek time Foucault makes out under the heading “Économique” above all in the reading of Xenophon’s Oikonomikos. The relationship of husband and wife in the oikos is one of asymmetrical fidelity: while the wife must be faithful in order to maintain her legal status, the husband can be faithful in the context of his governance. (Cf. the section “La maisonnée d’Ischomache,” in id., Histoire de la sexualité 2. L’usage des plaisirs, Paris: Gallimard 1984, pp.169–183.) 15  Foucault, Histoire de la sexualité 3, p.192. 16  Cf. below Sect. 4.2: “Excursus: Romantic Coupling, Transcending Marriage (Novalis)”. 17  On this exclusion of marriage and the bourgeois marriage novel, see also Doris Sommer, Foundational Fictions. The National Romances of Latin America, Berkeley etal.: University of California Press 1991, pp.33–36. 18  Cf. also Lüdemann, Metaphern der Gesellschaft, pp.181–183. 14


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Visibility, or Pauline Mystery The question of representability and visibility leads inevitably to the Christian conception of marriage that emerged in the late Middle Ages and early modern period. From about the tenth century, according to the book-length article on marriage in the Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, the exclusive competence of the Church in matrimonial matters was generally recognized.19 Under the legal title of ius divinum, the canons conceived a normative marriage bond (the vinculum matrimonii encompassing marriage, marriage impediments, and divorce law) that identified the Christian religious conception of marriage with the political-secular marriage law.20 What is at stake here, in other words, is an intertwining of law and religion, both the sacramentalization of marriage law and the juridification of the sacred.21 In some cases, specific dates and council decisions are cited in connection with the elevation of marriage to a sacrament, such as the Second Lateran Council of 1139, which parallels marriage with the Eucharist, baptism and the priesthood, or the Council of Lyons in 1274 (i.e. more than 100 years later!), which established exactly seven sacraments.22 In fact, no exact date can be given for the primacy of canonical marriage law; it fluctuates between the 10th and 12th centuries. Whenever there is talk of of the Church’s power and authority becoming more concentrated in the Middle Ages and in modern times, reference is usually made to the parallelism of sacramentalization and the claim to jurisdiction.23 In principle, the concentrating did not peak until the Council of Trent (1545–1563), where a binding formal requirement was established as a criterion for the visibility of marriage. However, because the Tridentine Council introduced the formal requirement not least in order to distinguish itself from confessionally divergent ideas, it can be seen as both the culmination and the decline of ecclesiastical supremacy.24

 Art. “Mariage”, in: Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, vol. 9, Paris: Librairie Letouzey et Ané 1927, sp. 2043–2335; here: Sp. 2123. 20  Cf. Schwab, Grundlagen und Gestalt der staatlichen Ehegesetzgebung, p.12ff. 21  On the indistinguishability or equal originality of law and religion, see Giorgio Agamben, Il sacramento del linguaggio. Archeologia del giuramento, Rome/Bari: GLF Editori Laterza 2008. 22  Art. “Ehe/Eherecht/Ehescheidung”, in: Theologische Realenzyklopädie, ed. Horst Robert Balz etal., vol. 9, Berlin/New York: De Gruyter 1982, pp.308–362; here: S. 334. 23  Already with the Reformers, for instance in Calvin’s Institution de la Religion chrétienne, the reproach is found that the elevation to the sacrament had only taken place in order to secure claims to legislation and jurisdiction (cf. Art. “Mariage”, in: Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, Sp. 2226). 24  Cf. for instance in this sense Markus Waldmann, Das System der Konkordatsehe in Italien. Entwicklung und aktuelle Probleme der Kooperation zwischen Staat und katholischer Kirche, Berlin: Duncker & Humblot 2003, pp.23–25 “With the Council, however, the high point of the dominance of canonical marriage law had already been passed, since through the Reformation both the sacramental nature of Christian marriage and its indissolubility were called into question and thus the foundations of the system outlined above were shaken.” On the secularizing aspects of the Tridentine debate, see also Schwab, Grundlagen und Gestalt der staatlichen Ehegesetzgebung, pp.64f. 19

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The “Tametsi” decree, issued in 1563, is the result of protracted theological disputes against the background of the Reformation. It took several years and textual submissions before the twelve canons De sacramento matrimonii and the ten canons Super reformatione (those referred to as the “Tametsi” decree) were adopted in October 1563.25 The doctrine of the Old Testament institution of marriage was confirmed in Gen 2:23 f. (“This [is] now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be two in one flesh.”).26 Jesus Christ elevated pre-existing marriage as the founder (institutor) and finisher (perfector) of one of the Seven Sacraments of the New Covenant. In scholastic tradition, the passage from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (Eph 5:21–33), according to which marriage is an image of the relationship between Christ and the Church, is cited as the main evidence for the sacramentality of marriage. Thruthermore, the Church’s claim of juristicion is derived from the juxtaposition of Old Testament marriage (vetus connubia) and marriage according to the law of the Gospel (matrimonium in lege evangelica).27 Finally, in order to prevent clandestine marriages, especially with persons of other faiths, the formal requirements are laid down: Before marriage is contracted, it must be proclaimed on three consecutive feast days during Mass. The marriage, the essence of which is considered to be the mutual declaration of consensus (mutus consensus), must take place in the presence of the Church (in facie Ecclesiae) and in the presence of two or three witnesses, the priest also announcing the following (or regionally variable) unifying words: “Ego vos in matrimonium coniungo, in nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti”.28 Leaving aside all the controversial points concerning the nature, purpose and bond of marriage, it remains to be said that this form of marriage is still practiced in canon law today and that traces of it can also be found in civil marriage. The decisive point is that the “Tametsi” decree binds not only the validity of the sacrament, but also its essence to the adherence to legal form. Marriage is determined by its ‘essence’, its being as sacral law!29 What was intra-theologically daring and controversial was risking the exclusion of other Christian marriages which were not concluded according to the new formal requirement as non-sacramental. A religio-­legal publicity of marriage emerges, centered on the manifestation of consensus, the double speech act of husband and wife. Thus, by analogy with Giorgio Agamben’s philosophical archaeology of the oath, which attempts to define it as a

 See the summary in the art. “Mariage”, in: Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, sp. 2233–2247.  Quoted from “Sitzung vom 11. Nov. 1563: a) Lehre und Kanones über das Sakrament der Ehe b) Kanones über eine Reform der Ehe: Dekret Tametsi”, in: Heinrich Denzinger (ed.), Kompendium der Glaubensbekenntnisse und kirchlichen Lehrmeinungen, Freiburg i.B./Basel/Rome/Vienna: Herder38 1999, pp.572–577; here: can. 1797, S. 573. 27  Ibid., can. 1797, S. 573. 28  Ibid., Cap. 1, p.576f. 29  Exactly therein lies the difference to the modern codifications (Code civil, General Prussian Land Law), which formally demand a marriage competence, at most determine marriage purposes, while the discussion about an essence of marriage wanders into other discourses (philosophy, literature). 25 26


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religious-legal act of justifying language, one could speak of an archaeology of marriage whose vanishing point is the figuration of being a couple. For this, let us return to the medieval scene in which marriage as an invisible thing or: as an absolute metaphor, is made visible. The elevation of marriage to a sacrament means that it is understood– like baptism and the Eucharist– as a sign of an invisible thing: sacramentum quia sacræ rei signum.30 At the center of this sacramentalization are the already mentioned Pauline remarks in the fifth chapter of the Letter to the Ephesians, where Paul also uses the Greek expression mysterium (lat. sacramentum): Submit yourselves one to another in the common reverence of Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands as to the Lord (Christ); for the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church; he saved her, for she is his body. But as the church submits to Christ, so let the women submit to the men in everything. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church, and gave himself for her, to make her pure and holy in water and by the word. So he wants the church to appear glorious before him, without spot or wrinkle or any other blemish; holy it should be and spotless. Therefore husbands are bound to love their wives as they love their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. No man ever hated his own body, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ did the Church. For we are members of his body. Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh. This is a profound mystery [mysterium]; I relate it to Christ and the Church. As for you, let each of you love his wife as himself, but let the wife honor the husband. 31

Paul’s image for the church as a mystical relationship of subordination is based on the Jesuan statements on the indissolubility and unity of marriage. Relevant for this are on the one hand Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount, which refer to the fulfilment of the law and imply the break with the Jewish law of divorce. Jesus counters the commandment “You shall not commit adultery” here with the words: “Whoever even looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Mt 5:28) And with regards to the old law, which provides for the possibility of divorce (Dt 24:1), he counters the words, “He who discharges his wife, though there be no case of fornication, delivers her up to adultery; and he who marries a woman who has been discharged from marriage commits adultery” (Mt 5:32). Goethe, in his Die Wahlverwandtschaften, will make this disenfranchised, individualized commandment of fidelity the main issue of his novel. On the other hand, when Jesus is directly addressed by the Pharisees about the right to divorce, he negates it with the una caro of man and woman from the creation narrative (Gen 2:24). Man and woman are no longer two but one, Jesus replies to the scribes, “But what God has joined together, let not man put asunder” (Mt 19:6). Canonical legal language in particular will take up this Deus coniunxit to establish the divinity of the marriage bond, vinculum matrimonii, and Jesus’ words from Mt 19:6 become an obligatory element in the Protestant marriage form. Paul, for his part, now takes up  Art. “Mariage”, in: Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, sp. 2199.  Eph 5: 21–33. Bible passages are quoted in the following– if not otherwise indicated– according to the Einheitsübersetzung (New Jerusalem Bible, Freiburg/Basel/Vienna: Herder12 1985). 30 31

2.1  Secularization ofMarriage? Sacramentality andJurisdiction


the ‘one flesh’ of husband and wife to invoke the unity of the church. But what is new is that he combines it with another image, that of the community of believers as the mystical body of Christ (cf. 1 Cor 12:12). The Christian community forms a ‘spiritual body’ made up of equally necessary members, distinct from the community of non-believers based on ethnic and class inequality: “By one Spirit we were all incorporated into one body in baptism, Jews and Greeks, slaves and free; and we were all made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Cor 12:13). Christ is the head of this community, to whom the members submit. Paul now transfers this body-metaphor of ancient Greek provenance, which is foreign to the Jewish tradition, to the relationship between man and woman, so that the following schema results: Couple / una caro


corpus Christi











With this overlapping of metaphors, Paul integrates a hierarchical gender relation into the body-metaphorical conception of Christ as head of the church. In doing so, he also connects the body metaphor with the Old Testament covenant idea, which is repeatedly depicted as God’s ‘marriage’ with his chosen people and which he now applies to Christ and the new people of the baptized.32 In so doing, we might say, he succeeds in replacing the Old Covenant with the New, or rather in the paradoxical operation of introducing love as the new law in the fusion of two metaphors.33 As Christ represents the head, and the faithful represent the members of the body, the man as head of the couple relationship is the one who lovingly gives new birth to the woman as she ‘honors’ a male-creative body. In order to hierarchically regulate the couple relationship, Paul integrates it into the imagery of a chaste male

 One must be precise terminologically: Hebrew has no term for ‘marriage’ or ‘marry’: “The phrase ‘A is the husband/wife of’ sufficiently marks the man or woman as married.” The New Testament uses the word γάμος for the union of a man and a woman, which means primarily ‘marriage’ and only secondarily ‘matrimony,’ e.g., the wedding at Cana described in John 2:1 (cf. Art. “Marriage/Marriage/Divorce,” in Theologische Realenzyklopädie, p.311 and p.318). In the above quoted Paul passage Eph 5: 21–33 the term marriage does not occur; it is only about the ‘man’ as the ‘head’ of the ‘woman’. 33  On the marriage metaphor in the Old Testament and in Paul, see Jan Assmann, Exodus. Die Revolution der Alten Welt, Munich: C.H.Beck 2015, pp.241–248. The Old Testament address of Israel as Yahweh’s chosen wife is first and foremost an admonition to be faithful; in this respect, adultery is already the decisive keyword here. Assmann cites as examples, among others, Hos 4:13–14; Jer 3:19; Ez 16 and Ez 23. The positive reinterpretation of adultery, which is to be averted, as an erotic love relationship only took place later with the Song of Songs. Concerning Jerusalem as a positive figure of fulfillment and bride of the Lord cf. especially Isa 54. 32


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body created by the ‘pneumatic interpenetration’34 with Christ. The couple is a unity not because it unites literally-sexually, but because it represents another unity. This is the mysterium that Paul relates ‘to Christ and the Church’. Marriage is thus introduced as a metaphor for the community of the ecclesia, but not as the best metaphor, but as a sort of second-best metaphor, derived from the Body of Christ metaphor.35 Paul famously recommends marriage to those who do not have enough strength and self-discipline for an abstinent existence, for “it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (1 Cor 7:9). Wheather best or second-best metaphor, it is important to emphasize at this point that the abstract sign character of marriage is rooted in the cited Pauline paraphrase of the couple relationship as mysterium. Compared to Judaism and antiquity, this interpretation is new: the lawful, ‘conjugal’ Yahweh of Judaism with his people becomes a Christian loving and incarnate God who forms a single body with his believers. The Old Testament law covenant becomes a love covenant, a ‘love marriage’. Such an allegorical meaning of the marriage covenant, characteristic of Judaism and Christianity, is altogether foreign to Greek and Roman antiquity. It is true that in ancient state theory, too, the organism and the family are compared with the political community; above all, Aristotle’s typology of forms of rule in the first book of the Politeia springs to mind.36 However, neither in a legal nor in a religious function does marriage play a role here. Only in an analogical function does it serve to legitimize a principally natural order of rule. Thus it is not the marital relationship, but the oikos, as Xenophon also describes it, that reflects the natural state as the product of good rule. Just as the soul rules over the body, in the oikos, the husband rules over the wife, and in the state, the ruler rules over the subjects. In Rousseau in particular, this relationship of visible-natural, ‘economic’ product– the keyword here is the manorial rule of Clarens– and invisible, political-­ religious product– be it the contractual fiction of the Contrat social or the marital fiction of the Nouvelle Héloïse – becomes indissolubly intertwined. It is thus only the Judeo-Christian conception of covenant that makes it possible to ‘politicize’ the couple. The fact that this only became possible in the shadow of what is, in reality, a masculine abstentious communal body, and that ecclesiastical hesitation continued in symbolic valorization, is still evident in the medieval process of sacramentalization. Marriage remains the most carnal and last of the seven sacraments. In sacramental marriage, the couple is sworn to the ecclesial society. Paolo Prodi famously

 Susanne Lüdemann, Metaphern der Gesellschaft, p.99 (in the chapter “From the Body of Christ to the Body. The Assertion of Organic Metaphor in Pauline Theology”, pp.88–100). 35  The commentary on Eph 5: 22–33 in the article “Mariage” of the Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, sp. 2067, reads in this respect as follows: “Le but de saint Paul n’est pas directement d’affirmer le caractère symbolique du mariage; ce qu’il veut, c’est proposer aux époux un modèle à réaliser. […] Ce n’est pas une allégorie qu’il développe; c’est une exhortation morale à réaliser, un idéal surnaturel.” 36  Cf. Aristotle, Politik, transl. Eckart Schütrumpf, Hamburg: Meiner 2012. 34

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described the oath as “the basis of the political contract in Western history.”37 With the oath, the individual becomes wholly, that is, externally-politically and internally-­ religiously-­privately, bound to and represented by the authority of the state, with the High Middle Ages marking the epoch in which the bearer of this institution begins to differentiate dualistically into church and state. According to Prodi, the “legislation of the sacraments– for example with regard to marriage– […] becomes the arena of competition between the two powers”.38 The Church almost introduced the oath as an eighth sacrament; in fact, it remained with marriage as the seventh, with which the Church entered the threshold of social life. The study by Marie-Odile Métral, Le mariage. Les hésitations de l’Occident39 focuses on the sign-theoretical ambivalence of crossing this threshold. According to her, the ambivalence of a simultaneous revaluation and devaluation of marriage by Christianity is the reason why the couple was not so much put in its place by the institution of marriage as carnally and sexually standardized. The church’s understanding of marriage is criticized for its substantialism: While virginity was the proper or primordial sign of the covenant between God and man, marriage was a derivative, secondary sign, namely a sign of the sign of virginity. The status of virginity fluctuates between sign and reality, between invisibility and visibility. It is an invisible sign because one does not see the relationship with God. It becomes a visible, real, practiced, hypostasized or ontologized metaphor in monasticism – and this in the difference to marriage (which can ‘only’ represent the visible church, but not the mystical relationship with God ‘directly’).40 Marriage is not a sign of a relationship (that between Christ and the believer), but a sign of a (virginal) body of the Church. Hence its classification as the lowest and most doubtful sacrament. On the one hand, it compensates for the exclusion of the corporeal and regulates biological reproduction; on the other, it authorizes an eroticization of the ideal of virginity as a mystical love relationship institutionally-factually granted only to men: “Bien loin d’établir l’égalité, la complémentarité assure la hiérarchie en donnant l’illusion de la réciprocité.” (“Far from establishing equality, complementarity ensures hierarchy by giving the illusion of reciprocity”)41 Using psychoanalytic and semiotic tools, Métral traces how and why the church – and, by extension, the state – conceived of marriage as exclusively chaste, hostile to sexuality; and she points out the discursive fractures in this  Paolo Prodi, “Der Eid in der europäischen Verfassungsgeschichte”, in id., Elisabeth MüllerLuckner (eds), Glaube und Eid. Treueformeln, Glaubensbekenntnisse und Sozialdisziplinierung zwischen Mittelalter und Neuzeit, Munich: Oldenbourg 1993, pp. VII–XXIX; here: S.VII. 38  Ibid., p. XV. 39  Marie-Odile Métral, Le mariage. Les hésitations de l’Occident, Paris: Éditions Aubier-Montaigne 1977. The German translation was published by Suhrkamp in 1981 under the misleading title Die Ehe. Analyse einer Institution.– The title fails to recognise that Métral’s ‘méthode, délibérément philosophique’ (Le mariage, p.15) is not just about analysis, but about the ‘reservations of the Christian Occident’ about this institution. 40  Métral, Le mariage, pp.50–55. 41  Ibid., p.55. 37


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narrative: To the revolutionary marriage discourse of a Hugo of Saint Victor (which has gone unheard in church history), to the integration of a displaced Eros in Christian mysticism, or to courtly love, which can be understood as resistance to the process of legalization.42 Her revalorization of marriage is now about valorizing the sign character, that is, making visible not a regimentally functioning (‘Pauline’) conceptual spectrum, but a relational, differential couple model. Instead of spiritual interpenetration in Christo, Métral aims at an ‘interpénétration du social dans le couple’ (‘interpenetration of the social in the couple’).43 Thus she shifts the sacred to the social: Le mariage est donc l’institution qui, dans une société véritable, est un relais vers une existence transindividuelle. It inscrit l’intersubjectif dans un système de relations. Ce qui veut dire que le mariage entretient forcément un rapport avec le sacré, même en dehors de toute société sacrale. 44

Métral makes marriage a ‘sacred’, social utopian project to the extent that it is necessary to overcome de facto existing inequalities in the sense of injustices between men and women in society. What is original about this is the nonchalant skipping of all of the Enlightenment and Romantic literature which seeks to make marriage the seed of society in terms of natural law and gender complementarity. What is also original about it is the method of looking at marriage not one-sidedly on the side of law and politics or of religion, but in a sphere that connects these domains.45 One of Métral’s dogmatic criticisms regard to the literary fictions of marriage in particular remains to be emphasized, which draws attention back to the procedures of making visible: Métral criticizes (on the basis of Thomistic theology) that theological consensus was made the cause of the sacrament and thus removed from the realm of lasting efficacy. Marriage, in other words, is indeed a sacramental-image sign– but as an efficacious, grace-giving sign, it remains on a low, merely physical

 The legalization of marriage and courtly poetry (including the Tristan material) are interdependent: only when the consensus of the couple theoretically becomes constitutive of marriage can another way of speaking of the couple be set apart from it. 43  Métral, Le mariage, p.302. 44  “Marriage is thus the institution which, in a true society, is a relay towards a transindividual existence. It inscribes the intersubjective in a system of relations. This means that marriage necessarily has a relationship with the sacred, even outside of any sacred society.” Ibid., p.275. 45  How atypical this approach was in the 1970s and 1980s, and still is today, can be seen in the scant reception of Métral’s study. The preface by Philippe Ariès is also revealing, in that it pays tribute to the study but at the same time places it under fundamental reservations: “Cela est maintenant connu et admis, que nous, les hommes, nous ne cessons pas encore de dominer les femmes: n’empêche qu’il a fallu à Marie-Odile Métral une bonne dose de pouvoir et de talent pour m’emmener dans sa galère jusqu’au bout d’une révolte qui n’est pas tout à fait la mienne.” (Cf. Philippe Ariès, “Préface,” in Métral, Le mariage, p.7.) 42

2.1  Secularization ofMarriage? Sacramentality andJurisdiction


level, below the sacramentality of a truly ‘virginal’ clergy.46 The critique of the ‘inhibited’ sacrament is formulated with the help of the concept of contract: consensus is described as a contract – a juridical form of voluntary consent– which the Church illegitimately standardizes by limiting it as a mere ‘cause’ of the sacrament to the moment of marriage and thus at the same time depriving it of its lasting effects of grace or law. The idea of contract, according to which two parties act together permanently, is declared to be a condition of conjugal communion, which is then realized, after marriage, as a relationship of dominion (of the man over the woman). Thus the woman’s voice, according to Métral, is from the outset an expropriated one: “Sa parole est d’avance une parole aliénée” (“His word is in advance an alienated word.”)47 She does not have the choice between a yes and a no, but can only put forward her yes in one way or another, the right way or the wrong way.

rocess ofMaking Visible: TheCouple Consensus Between P Sacrament andContract How can the connection between man and woman be made visible? How can a marriage ritual be standardized? When does a marriage begin? In this context, scholastic theology sets the word or speech against the act of coitus, copula carnalis. In contrast to to Germanic and Frankish law where marriage is a matter of clan law, the principle of consensus (i.e. the willingness of both spouses), began to become increasingly prevalent in Roman canon law.48 In practice, this means that various rituals such as courtship, the handing over of the bride, the nuptuals, the blessing of the bridal chamber, or the handing over of symbolic items such as munt, spears, gloves, rings, etc., take a back seat to the public and ceremonial declaration of consensus.49 In the archaic Germanic ‘munt marriage’, the guardianship (munt) of the father over the bride passes to the husband. The bridegroom of a munt marriage  “The sacrament of marriage has a preservative role in relation to the institution; it is part of the order of creation, which it parachutes without destroying it. […] Le sacrement apparaît donc comme la christianisation, c’est-à-dire le baptême, de l’institution naturelle lorsque es sont des chrétiens, des baptisés, qui s’engagent dans cette institution./Un tel engagement, comme celui du baptême, ne peut être que personnel. Saint Thomas inscrit dans l’institution naturelle le libre consentement, sans le le mariage ne pourrait être sacrement. En effet, le mariage repose sur un contrat et ce contrat, lorsqu’il a pour parties des chrétiens, ne peut engager seulement les richesses [the matrimonial property; note D.S.], mais l’ensemble de leur vie. […] Car si, précisément, c’est le contrat de ce type est bien un sacrement au sens strict, lorsque les parties sont chrétiennes. Aussi faut-il le ritualisant de façon adéquate. Mais le consentement, et le consentement seulement, est sacrementel.” (Métral, Le mariage, p.198f.) 47  Ibid., p.200. 48  Cf. Hermann Conrad, “Das Tridentinische Konzil und die Entwicklung des kirchlichen und weltlichen Eherechtes”, in: Georg Schreiber (ed.), Das Weltkonzil von Trient, Freiburg: Herder 1951, pp.297–324. 49  On the history of the marriage ritual, see Clausdieter Schott, Trauung und Jawort. Von der Brautübergabe zur Ziviltrauung. Festschrift für Karl Bodenstein, Frankfurt a. M.: Verlag für Standesamtswesen GmbH 1992. 46


2  Marriage Around 1800: Between Contract andSacrament

commits himself at the betrothal– lat. desponsatio – to pay the woman’s clan a so-­ called muntschatz (bride’s treasure, lat. dos) for the bride.50 The Germanic desponsatio was followed by the handing over of the bride (traditio puellae), the bringing home of the bride to the house of the man, the Beilager and the Morgengabe. In the Germanic muntehe, the parties to the contract are not the bridegroom and bride, but the bridegroom and the bride’s guardian. It is partly inferred from the surviving marriage elements that medieval marriage can be regarded less as an event than as a regulated procedure and process.51 Marriage as a custom consisting of several acts that must be performed or narrated is an aspect that Goethe fleshes out epically in Herrmann und Dorothea. The public declaration of consent by the nupturients does not yet seem to play a role here; only in the fusion of Roman canon law and Germanic law does it become a central element of marriage. With the increasing expansion of the Church’s competence in legislation and jurisdiction around the turn of the millennium, the significance of the marriage consensus becomes a subject of discussion. With it, the Church aimed “to abolish the right of betrothal, by virtue of which the woman’s muntwalt could marry her even without her will”.52 In the so-called copula versus consensus theory, a corporeal and a ‘metaphorical’ marriage principle now stand opposed. The reference works present the result of the controversy as a synthesis between Gratian’s collection of decrees (c. 1140), written in Bologna, and the positions of the Parisian theologian Petrus Lombardus (twelfth century). At the heart of the dispute is the status of the principle taken from Roman law, “Nuptias non concubitus, sed consensus facit.” 53 According to Gratian, there must be a sexual union between the spouses beyond the declaration of will for marriage to be fully valid. In contrast, the Parisian school of Petrus Lombardus holds that consensus alone is marriage-constitutive: “Efficiens autem causa matrimonii est consensus, non quilibet, sed per verba expressus: nec de futuro sed de praesenti.”54 In order to precisely determine the moment at which the legal effects take place, Petrus Lombardus distinguishes what is today the equivalent of the conceptual distinction between ‘betrothal’ and ‘marriage’: a consensus de futuro– an agreement which moves the unifying effect into the future– and a consensus de praesenti – an agreement with immediate effect. In fact, consensus theory resolves not so much the question of visibility as that of the precise point in time at which legal and religious effects were to come into force. For one thing, it was not settled where, how, and in

 Cf. Ibid., pp.19–29.  Cf. in particular Michael Schröter, “Wo zwei zusammenkommen in rechter Ehe …”. Sozio- und psychogenetische Studien über Eheschließungsvorgänge vom 12. bis 15. Jahrhundert, Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp 1985. 52  Schwab, Grundlagen und Gestalt der staatlichen Ehegesetzgebung, p.16. 53  Digesten 50, 17, 30 (after Ulpian, d. 223); quoted in: Schott, Trauung und Jawort, p.27. 54  “The very basis of marriage is consensus, but not just any consensus, but the consensus expressed by words, not for the future, but for the present.” (Petrus Lombardus, Libri IV Sententiarum. IV. dist. XXVII. c. III; quoted in Conrad, “The Tridentine Council,” p.303.) 50 51

2.1  Secularization ofMarriage? Sacramentality andJurisdiction


what wording the mutual declaration of will was to take place.55 The legal historian Clausdieter Schott points out that with the principle of consensus “the woman had indeed become legally capable of acting”, but that, at the same time, the literature and iconography of marriage illustrated how much the woman’s consent was exposed to the suspicion of deceit and trickery.56 In this respect, the theory of consensus that took hold also conditioned the emergence of a literature that could undermine or transcend consensus as a legal and sacramental principle– in jokes, in farce, and, perhaps above all, in love poetry. Even in the marriage stories of around 1800, the quality of consensus is measured by the way the woman speaks or is made to speak. Second, the autonomy of couple consensus produces the problem of clandestine marriages in the first place. The principle of consensus, says the Protestant canon lawyer Dieterich, is introduced as an innovation without sanctioning marriages which are not performed in public– marriages of lay people or those of other faiths, marriages of convenience or clandestine marriages– with nullity.57 It is only with the formal requirement of the Tridentinum that criteria for the publicity of the manifestation of consensus are established. Finally, it should be noted that the enforcement of consensus to the detriment of cohabitation also brought with it an indirect possibility of divorce: the principle of indissolubility applies only to sacramental and consummated marriages (matrimonium ratum et consummatum58). Accordingly, in canon law– until today– marriages that were legally valid but not sexually consummated can be dissolved by consensus. The elevation of consensus to a necessary criterion for marriage to come into being implies the idea of contract (or a fiction of contract) at the couple level. Hermann Conrad comments on the enforcement of the consensus versus copula principle by saying, “According to the Church, marriage was thus a contract between the two partners.”59 A contract in which husband and wife are the parties who must witness to each other as a unified and indissoluble couple.60  “Les formes de la célébration du mariage ne pouvaient être rigoureusement déterminées, puisque le consentement crée, à lui seul, le lien.” (Art. “Mariage,” in: Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, sp. 2160.) 56  Schott, Trauung und Jawort, p.32. 57  Hartwig Dieterich, Das protestantische Eherecht in Deutschland bis zur Mitte des 17. Jahrhunderts, Munich: Claudius 1970, p.23. 58  Cf. Codex Iuris Canonici (1983), Book IV, Part I, Title VII, Can. 1141: “Marriage, valid and consummated, cannot be dissolved by any human power or for any cause except death.” (“Matrimonium ratum et consummatum nulla humana potestate nullaque causa, praeterquam morte, dissolvi potest.”) Can. 1142 then regulates the possibility of dissolution of an unconsummated marriage (cited from:; 23.11.2016). There is, as we know, no divorce in Roman canon law. In addition to the exceptions to dissolution, the CIC provides for the separation of table and bed, as well as the judicial and retroactive determination of the nullity (ineffectiveness) of the marriage bond. 59  Conrad, “Das Tridentinische Konzil,” p.303. 60  Cf. also the distinction between the “contrat consensuel”, conceived as it were in the Middle Ages, and the “contrat solennel”, developed further in the Trident, in the article “Mariage en droit occidental”, in: Dictionnaire de droit canonique, ed. R. Naz, Paris: Letouzey et Ané 1957, pp.740–787; here: Sp. 746–750. 55


2  Marriage Around 1800: Between Contract andSacrament

In the course of “dressing the consensus of the spouses up in obligatory legal formalities”61 however, the idea of contract penetrates the Christian conception of marriage from another side. Not from the side of the couple and not to distinguish it from a community bound by blood ties (clan or family), but also ‘from above’, from the side of an ecclesia with a claim to jurisdiction, which defends itself against another, also legally bound community. Connected with this is the dogmatic peculiarity of the sacrament of marriage in Roman Catholic law, that it is the only one of the seven sacraments that was not newly endowed by Jesus Christ in the New Testament, but restituted, as it were.62 Marriage is regarded as a divine and natural institution, originating in creation and ‘raised’ to the status of a sacrament by Jesus Christ– according to the theological term going back to Robert Bellarmin.63 As far back as the Aristotelian-Scholastic theology of Thomas Aquinas, which combined divine, political and natural law, consensus could be explained in terms of natural law also as a material contract (contractus materialis).64 But it was only with the Tridentine Council in the sixteenth century that marriage as a contract (contractus) slowly moved into the centre of interest, to become a polemical concept or political metaphor towards the end of the eighteenth century, with which the Church’s right to legislate was to be contested by the state. The “Tametsi” decree also became so controversial within theology because many council participants negated the power to formally regulate sacramental consensus. The proponents of the decree therefore emphasized that the required form of marriage did not concern the essence of the sacrament at all. They did so with the momentous distinction between sacrament and natural-civil contract. The same Robert Bellarmin who declares that Christ raised marriage to a sacrament also teaches that this sacrament is based on a civil contract (contractus civilis).65 But this implicitly presupposes legally distinct entities. From today’s perspective, it is self-evident that there can be contracts not only between individuals, but also between fictitious persons, corporations and states, that the concept of contract is anchored in private law as well as in state and

 Conrad, “Das Tridentinische Konzil” p.306.  At the same time, marriage is the only one of the seven sacraments that is already literally associated with sacramentum in the New Testament, in Eph 5:32. 63  It is the formulation that the current CIC (1983) still contains in the first paragraph on marriage: “The marriage covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves the communion of the whole of life, which by its natural character is ordered to the good of the spouses and to the procreation and education of offspring, has been elevated by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament between baptized persons.” (“Matrimoniale foedus, quo vir et mulier inter se totius vitae consortium constituunt, indole sua naturali ad bonum coniugum atque ad prolis generationem et educationem ordinatum, a Christo Domino ad sacramenti dignitatem inter baptizatos evectum est.”) Cf. Codex Iuris Canonici (1983), Book IV, Part I, Title VII, Can. 1033, § 1. 64  Cf. Schwab, Grundlagen und Gestalt der staatlichen Ehegesetzgebung, pp.77f. 65  Cf. Ibid., pp.70–79. 61 62

2.1  Secularization ofMarriage? Sacramentality andJurisdiction


international law.66 But this is the result of a doctrine of both natural law and contract law which runs through Hobbes, Grotius, Locke, and Rousseau, and which transfers the concept of contract from the individual to the collective. Roman law apparently had no sophisticated theory of contract; terms such as consensus, contractus, pactum, conventio could be used more or less synonymously. In the Middle Ages, a first step towards a unified doctrine of contract was taken with the establishment of the legal proposition that, in principle, all contracts became actionable. Furthermore, pactum became a general basic concept of contract. The loan word ‘contract’, contractus, prevailed in the fifteenth/sixteenth century in chancery language– in the “Tametsi” decree of 1563, marriage is called matrimonium contrahere. Hugo Grotius’ treatise on international law De iure belli ac pacis of 1625 did not coin a specific contract term, but used contractus, pactum, conventio or even promissio.67 Only Rousseau, in 1762, with his Contrat social, made the social contract a political concept with an explicit state-founding function. If at the same time (in the novel of La Nouvelle Héloïse by the same Rousseau!) marriage is also used to justify a community (starting with the cult of the revolution up to Fichte or Hegel), then the concept of consensus has become a hinge point between sacrament and contract. The Church reinforced its view that marriage was also a contract as the state increasingly claimed a secular right to marry. As a legal fiction, consensus thus came into confrontation both with a literal, understood, physical union of man and woman (copula) and with a sacrament that became, if not factually, at least theoretically distinguishable from contract. This is reflected in the paradoxical and canonically controversial function that the priest has in a marriage ceremony: He is not the minister of this sacrament, as is the case with the other sacraments, but the bride and groom themselves, who assume this ministerium in the consensual rite. At the same time, the sacrament is valid only when a priest is present as a qualified witness at that moment. While marriage is regarded as a secular event in most religions, the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches still require the presence of a clergyman because of the sacramental character of marriage.68 Consensus is therefore such an interesting concept because it creates the figure of a couple that, anachronistically speaking, is neither entirely private nor can it be entirely assigned to the res publica. It is precisely in this intermediate position that the reading of literary texts will have to pursue the couple figure. The reciprocal speech act of man and woman thereby becomes a seductive image for a more just, truly relational and not hierarchical relationship between persons. Contract and sacrament, law and religion coincide in the canonical conception of marriage to this day. One can separate the terms logically or rationally, but in the act of the ‘formally clothed’ couple-consensus, they form a metaphorical unity: “Donc,  Cf. Art. “Vertrag”, in: Handwörterbuch zur deutschen Rechtsgeschichte, ed. Adalbert Erler etal., vol. 5, Berlin: Erich Schmidt Verlag 1998, pp.842–852, which is divided into precisely these two sections (private law and constitutional and international law), written by two different authors. 67  Ulrike Köbler, Werden, Wandel und Wesen des deutschen Privatrechtswortschatzes, Frankfurt a. M.: Peter Lang 2010, pp.132–137 (on the concepts of ‘contract’ and ‘contract’). 68  Maschwitz, Die Form der Eheschließung, p.198. 66


2  Marriage Around 1800: Between Contract andSacrament

entre le contrat et le sacrement de mariage, on peut établir une distinction logique, mais pas une distinction réelle” (“Therefore, between the contract and the sacrament of marriage, a logical distinction can be made, but not a real distinction”), one reads in the Dictionnaire de théologie catholique (1927).69 And almost identically in the Dictionnaire de droit canonique (1957): “Il y a une identité réelle du contrat et du sacrement, la raison peut les distinguer, les dissocier, mais un seul, un même acte les réalise.” (“There is a real identity between the contract and the sacrament, reason can distinguish them, dissociate them, but only one, the same act realizes them”.)70 Viewed in the longue durée, the concept of contract in canon law proves to be a symptom of competition with secular marriage legislation. A theologian like Antonio Rosmini (1797–1855), with whom Manzoni maintained contact, tried to prevent civil marriage legislation in the post-Napoleonic kingdom of Sardinia-­ Piedmont in the 1840s and 1850s with the familiar arguments: There is no contract without sacrament. The French regalists, who separated the terms to give legislative powers to the French king, had been mistaken. The civil marriage contract is a legal fiction (‘finzione legale’), which wanted to destroy the real fact of ecclesiastical marriage.71 Meanwhile, a minimizing of the concept of contract can be noted in canon law. The Codex Iuris Canonici of 1917, the first canonical code, still introduces marriage as a contract elevated to a sacrament: “Christus Dominus ad sacramenti dignitatem evexit ipsum contractum matrimonialem inter baptizatos.”72 In contrast, the 1983 Code abandons the notion of contract to speak instead of a ‘marriage covenant’ (matrimoniale foedus): “The marriage covenant, by which a man and a woman form with each other an intimate communion of life and love, has been founded and endowed with its own special laws by the Creator. By its very nature it is ordered to the good of the couple, as well as to the generation and education of children. Christ the Lord raised marriage between the baptized to the dignity of a sacrament.”73 With the concept of covenant, the current Code reconnects more closely with the image character of marriage as a covenant between Christ and the Church. In his commentary on today’s ecclesiastical marriage law, Canon Jean Bernhard notes a change from a contractualist understanding of marriage, which still characterized the Codex Iuris Canonici of 1917, to a personalist approach:

 Art. “Mariage”, in: Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, sp. 2293.  Art. “Mariage en droit occidental”, in: Dictionnaire de droit canonique, p.750. 71  Antonio Rosmini, Sulle leggi civili che riguardano il Matrimonio de’ cristiani (1851), in: Opere di Antonio Rosmini, vol. 30: Del matrimonio. Operette varie, ed. Remo Bessero Belti, Rome: Città Nuova Editrice 1977, pp.11–175.– Although in Sardinia-Piedmont there was no introduction of a compulsory civil marriage, there was a civil marriage for non-Catholics. 72  “Christ the Lord has elevated the marriage contract between baptized persons to the dignity of a sacrament.” (Codex Iuris Canonici (1917), Book III, Part I, Title VII, Can. 1012, § 1; cited in:; 20.11.2016.) 73  “Matrimoniale foedus, quo vir et mulier inter se totius vitae consortium constituunt, indole sua naturali ad bonum coniugum atque ad prolis generationem et educationem ordinatum, a Christo Domino ad sacramenti dignitatem inter baptizatos evectum est.” (Codex Iuris Canonici (1983), Book IV, Part I, Title VII, Can. 1033, § 1.) 69 70

2.1  Secularization ofMarriage? Sacramentality andJurisdiction


While the concept of contract was still compatible with the understanding of the marriage consensus as an exchange of rights and duties– as in the Code of 1917– it is no longer appropriate for a description of the marriage consensus as a personal gift of self and in a doctrine of marriage that understands marriage as a personal community of love and life. The Council therefore eschewed the concept of contract and replaced it with the concept of covenant, which denotes marriage in its coming into being and its continuance. But the covenant concept also better expresses the personal and religious dimension of marriage.74

‘Personalization’ is a development parallel to the individualization of civil marriage law. In the concept of ‘covenant’ or ‘life partnership’, the difference between the origin and ‘status’ of marriage takes a back seat to ontological unity. Thus a distinction on which everything in the literary histories of marriage or marriage dissolution around 1800 seems to depend, recedes: the coming into being of marriage, and marriage in its duration, as a state; that is, what is differentiated in theologicallegal terminology as matrimonium in fieri versus matrimonium in facto esse.75 In any case, according to the forthcoming, the argument according to which the claim to jurisdiction is derived from sacramental nature can also be turned around: Sacramentality is derived from a juridical essential– the principle of consensus.

From theSacred State totheMoral State Purpose The late medieval ‘high period’ of contract and sacrament only emerges in the rejection of Reformation forces. In particular, Luther’s rejection of the sacramentality of marriage is well known. But with the devaluation of marriage as a sacrament comes a remarkable valorization of the marriage state. According to Luther, marriage is both a ‘worldly thing’ and a ‘holy estate’; and it must be profiled as superior to celibate virginity and as the most holy estate. Not ‘in carnal love or heat’ did he marry the runaway nun Katharina von Bora, but in order ‘to affirm by deed what I have taught’,76 writes the former Augustinian monk to Nikolaus von Amsdorff, whom he invites to his wedding celebration. With his arbitrary act of marriage, Luther denies more the canonical jurisdictional claim than the sacramentality (in the sense of ‘holiness’) of marriage. Although Luther rejects the sacramentality of marriage in

  Jean Bernhard, “Fundamentals of Ecclesiastical Marriage Law,” in Puza, Kustermann (eds.), Beginn und Ende der Ehe, pp.1–7; here: S. 2. 75  “Considéré in fieri, à l’instant de sa formation, il [le mariage; note D.S.] est un contrat naturel que la loi a pu réglementer; il est toujours, entre chrétiens, un contrat-sacrement et il crée un lien de droit permanent, un état. Les théologiens et les canonistes étudient donc le mariage in fieri (contrat-sacrement) et in facto esse (état).” (Art. “Mariage,” in Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, sp. 2285.) 76  Cited in: Heinz Schilling, Martin Luther. Rebell in einer Zeit des Umbruchs, Munich: Beck 2016 (2012), p.330. 74


2  Marriage Around 1800: Between Contract andSacrament

Prelude On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church (1520),77 he does use the term in several places, such as in Ein Sermon von dem ehlichen Stand (1519): But a sacrament is called a holy sign, which signifies something else, a spiritual, holy, heavenly, and eternal thing, like the water of baptism […]. So also matrimony is a sacrament, an outward, holy sign of the greatest, holiest, most worthy, noblest thing that never was or can be, which is the union of divine and human natures in Christ. For the holy apostle Paul says: “As man and woman are united in the eternal estate, two in one flesh, so God and mankind are one Christ, Christ also and Christianity one body, which is truly (he says) a great sacrament […]; that is, the eternal estate truly signifies great things.78

In the well-known recourse to Eph 5:21f., Luther compares marriage with the sacrament of baptism. Like the water there, the state of marriage takes on a metaphorical meaning– spirituality, holiness or ‘sacramentality’. In its outward quality as a sign, marriage becomes a ‘great thing’ because Paul called it a mysterious image for the whole Christian community. However, unlike the remedy of baptismal water, which one associates with freshness, vitality and grace, marriage is a troublesome affair in Luther’s view. With the Fall, conjugal love, which Luther in itself places above all other love, also fell and became impure: But marital love is above them all, that is a bridal love, which burns like fire and seeks no more than the marriageable spouse […]. All other love seeks something else than the one it loves; this love alone wants to have the beloved all to itself. And if Adam had not fallen, it would have been the sweetest thing, bride and bridegroom.79

After the Fall, the divine state of conjugal love, as Luther continues, became the famous “hospital of the infirm”,80 with the free conjugal union a common struggle against carnal desires. It is not to the institutional or contractual consummation that Luther gives his primary attention, especially in his earlier writings on marriage, but  “Die Ehe wird nicht nur ohne allen Schriftbeweis für ein Sakrament gehalten, sondern sie ist auch durch dieselben Satzungen, durch die sie als ein Sakrament angepriesen wird, zu einem reinen Gespött geworden, wovon wir etwas sehen wollen. Wir haben gesagt, in jedem Sakrament muss es ein Wort göttlicher Verheißung geben, dem glauben muss, wer das Zeichen empfängt; das Zeichen allein könne kein Sakrament sein. Nun wird aber niemals gelesen, dass jeder, der eine Frau nimmt, irgendetwas an göttlicher Gnade empfangen soll. Ja, es gibt nicht einmal ein von Gott eingesetztes Zeichen in der Ehe. Denn nirgends liest man, dass sie von Gott eingesetzt wäre, um etwas anderes zu bedeuten, auch wenn alle Dinge, die sichtbar geschehen, als Abbilder und Allegorien unsichtbarer Dinge verstanden werden können. Aber Abbild oder Allegorie sind nicht Sakramente, so wie wir von Sakramenten reden.” (Martin Luther, Von der babylonischen Gefangenschaft der Kirche, ein Vorspiel (1520), in id., Schriften, vol. 1: Aufbruch der Reformation, ed. Thomas Kaufmann, Berlin: Verlag der Weltreligionen 2014, pp.189–310; here: S. 275.) 78  Martin Luther, Ein Sermon von dem ehlichen Stand (1519), in. Id., Vom ehelichen Leben, ed. Dagmar C.G. Lorenz, Stuttgart: Reclam 1978, pp.3–10; here: P. 6. Further evidence for the use of the sacramental term in: Roland Kirstein, Die Entwicklung der Sponsalienlehre und der Lehre vom Eheschluss in der deutschen protestantischen Eherechtslehre bis zu J.H. Böhmer, Bonn: Röhrscheid 1966, p.26. 79  Martin Luther, Ein Sermon von dem ehlichen Stand, p.5. 80  Ibid. 77

2.1  Secularization ofMarriage? Sacramentality andJurisdiction


to the matrimonium in facto esse, the social and moral discipline of marriage. John Witte, referring to Luther’s conception of marriage, speaks of a social model and a social status,81 which has functions analogous to law without itself establishing positive law. Thus, significantly, he parallels the functions Luther assigns to marriage, following the Augustinian marital estates, with the functions of criminal law, coming up with ‘astonishing’– preventive, deterrent and pedagogical– analogies. Marriage was conceived as the beginning of commitment and vocation, of literal creed. This was a process of disciplining, not least of gender and sexuality, that could be seamlessly continued by the state.82 As far as marriage legislation is concerned, Luther creates a legal vacuum theologically. When he addresses questions of the marriage bond in his later writings Ein Traubüchlein (1529) and Von Ehesachen (1530), he does so in explicit disassociation from secular jurisprudence; “not as a jurisprudent, official or regent”. For example, he is against secret betrothals and in favor of parental consent, “but in the wisdom of counsel, as I would certainly like to serve good friends in particular.83 Just as Luther reckons with Augustine of the division of the world into a fallen secular realm and a divine realm, marriage law is divided into a deficient secular law and a divine law in which marriage is anchored.84 Luther emphasizes several times the paradisiacal creation of marriage. According to his Genesis lectures, marriage is institutio Dei and sanctum coniugium.85 But the history of decay of the state of sin cannot be stopped by any positive divine right. The voluntariness of the mutual yes thus becomes a legal-religious necessity. Marriage as the most holy and fallen state becomes justification of man par excellence and, with Protestant theologians,

 In contrast to a Roman Catholic sacramental model, Calvinist covenantal model, Anglican community and an Enlightenment contractual model (John Witte, Vom Sakrament zum Vertrag. Ehe, Religion und Recht in der abendländischen Tradition, Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus 2008 (Engl. 1997), pp.60–92). 82  Cf. Barbara Vinken, Die deutsche Mutter. Der lange Schatten eines Mythos, Frankfurt a. M.: Fischer 2007, pp.109–132, where physical motherhood is elaborated as the norm. 83  Martin Luther, Von Ehesachen (1530), in: id., Werke. Kritische Gesamtausgabe [Weimar Edition], 3rd Department, vol. 30, Weimar: Hermann Böhlaus Nachfolger 1910, pp. 198–248; here: S. 206. At the beginning of the Traubüchlein (1529), which proposes a form for the ecclesiastical blessing of marriage-for those who demand it (!)-it says: “[W]hile the wedding and marriage is a welltlich geschefft, gebührt uns geistlichen oder kirchendienern nichts darynn zu ordenen oderder regieren, Sondern lassen einer ieglichen Stad und Land hierynn yhren brauch und gewonheit, wie sie gehen”. (Martin Luther, Ein Traubüchlein für die einfältigen Pfarrherr (1529), in: id., Werke. Kritische Gesamtausgabe [Weimar Edition], 3rd Department, vol. 30, Weimar: Hermann Böhlaus Nachfolger 1910, pp.43–80; here: S. 74. 84  Cf. Dieterich, Das protestantische Eherecht, pp. 25–37; Kirstein, Die Entwicklung der Sponsalienlehre, pp. 26f.; Witte, Vom Sakrament zum Vertrag, pp.68f. 85  Cf. Kirstein, Die Entwicklung der Sponsalienlehre, p. 26 and Dieterich, Das protestantische Eherecht, p.37. 81


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metaphorically the “mother of all earthly legal orders”.86 In this context, its own jurisdiction is limited legal-theologically to to preaching and proclaiming of that holy llegislation whose duties in this world are only burdens and whose rights are deferred to the afterlife. The conception of marriage as a res mixta causes greater problems for Protestant theologians and jurists than for Roman Catholics, because it concerns the constitution of the ecclesia spiritualis and ultimately the fundamental question of the possibility of an independent church law.87 The problem reached its historicist climax in the Kulturkampf at the end of the nineteenth century and in the juridical-­ theological debate over the legitimacy of compulsory civil marriage. “Luther’s name,” writes legal historian Emil Friedberg in 1865, “was the field cry on both sides, and the efforts both for and against the introduction of civil marriage rest on his authority.”88 He himself freely uses Luther’s authority for civil marriage. Barely ten years before its actual introduction in Prussia and the German Empire, he provides historical proof in his monumental treatise that, according to the dogmatic understanding of the Reformation, ecclesiastical marriage had never existed, but had always only been a confirmation of marriage. The fact that in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries– culminating in the Prussian Land Law of 1794– church marriage was established as the only form of marriage is, according to Friedberg, a theologicalo-legal error.89 The conservative Lutheran ecclesiastical lawyer Rudolf Sohm counters this with his law of marriage, which recognizes the civil contract, but vehemently opposes a merely blessing-confirming function of the ecclesiastical marriage ceremony. The church wedding is for him the essential act with which the spouses in the Christian state are pronounced together, the marriage is ‘consumed’ and brought into being.90 Sohm’s plea for the pneumatically charismatic church act  Cf. Johannes Heckel, Lex charitatis. Eine juristische Untersuchung über das Recht in der Theologie Martin Luthers, Cologne/Vienna: Böhlau 1973, p.148: “Now in the kingdom of the world marriage has a unique significance. It is the mother of all earthly legal institutions. Without it the spiritual kingdom of God can exist, but not the kingdom of this world.” Cf. also Dieterich, Das protistantische Eherecht, p.37. Marriage is more important than the worldly regiment, “[t]hat as marriage is fons politiae for the kingdom of the world, so it becomes the nursery of the true church through the education of children in the faith for the kingdom of Christ.” 87  Hartwig Dieterich, Das protestantische Eherecht, who describes Luther’s doctrine of marriage explicitly against the background of Luther’s doctrines of justification and the two kingdoms. 88  Emil Friedberg, Das Recht der Eheschließung in seiner geschichtlichen Entwicklung, Leipzig: Verlag von Bernhard Tauchnitz 1865, p.160. 89  Ibid., pp.303–305. 90  Rudolph Sohm, Das Recht der Eheschließung aus dem deutschen und canonischen Recht geschichtlich entwickelt. Eine Antwort auf die Frage nach dem Verhältnis der kirchlichen Trauung zur Civilehe, Weimar: Böhlau 1875. Cf. p.295: “As now the marriage ceremony is preceded by the civil act, so at that time the marriage ceremony had to be preceded by the engagement. From this it follows that the marriage form [Luther’s; note D.S.] is to be retained unchanged […]. Above all, the ‘speaking together’ is to be retained. The ‘speaking together’ is […] an independent act of the clergy bringing about the factuality of the marriage.” – For a good summary of the FriedbergSohm debate, see Stephan Buchholz, “Contributions to nineteenth Century Marriage and Family Law,” Ius commune IX (1980), 229–313 (excursus pp.307–313). 86

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by which spouses are to be ‘inserted’ into the marriage state explains the conceptually special position of the ‘German wedding’, which has no real equivalent in other languages. It also points to the continuing controversial status of ecclesiastical marriage in Protestant churches.91 In legislative practice, Luther’s view of marriage demanded action: New magisterial marriage ordinances had to be created and theological counselors made available to these authorities. As revolutionary as the new “action program”92 appeared, it quickly fell back into traditional, i.e. canonical, channels. Overviews emphasize an astonishing continuity in canon law. Church regiments, consistories, and church directories emerge in parallel to canonical marriage legislation and jurisdiction.93 Thus, among Protestant theologians and jurists, the conflict over the ministerium of marriage and the ‘fully valid’ beginning of a marriage, which the Roman Catholic Church had theoretically resolved with the sacrament of contract, a conflict that was now given the technical term ‘sponsalia doctrine’, experienced a new edition.94 The debates revolved around the true legal and/or theological moment in which the indissoluble bond of marriage was established. The spectrum ranged from a marriage of betrothal, to which ‘betrothal precontracts’ were added if necessary, to a doctrine of marriage that wanted to see the marriage bond represented only in the copula carnalis or sacerdotalis instead of in the consensus of the willing spouses.95 Luther caused the problem by considering the couple’s consensus as ‘setting in motion’ the marriage, but linking it to a betrothal that drew its validity neither from juridical factuality (that of a written contract, for example) nor from an ecclesiastical wedding (which was only urged), but from a ‘public’ that was essentially constituted by the consent of the parents (i.e. the clan or family).96 In the course of this, he  Cf. on this Art. “Trauung”, Theologische Realenzyklopädie, ed. Horst Robert Balz etal., Vol. 34, Berlin/New York: De Gruyter 2002, pp.50–56, where four main positions are distinguished: the wedding ceremony as a supplement to the civil marriage, as a repetitive interpretation of the civil marriage, as a confession of a Christian marriage, as a liturgical and/or diaconal event on the occasion of the civil marriage (p.52). 92  According to Witte, Vom Sakrament zum Vertrag, p.71. 93  Cf. for example Schwab, Grundlagen und Gestalt der staatlichen Ehegesetzgebung, p.114ff. 94  Cf. esp. Kirstein, Die Entwicklung der Sponsalienlehre. 95  Stephan Buchholz presents Justus Henning Böhmer (1674–1749) with his rejection of the sponsalia de praesenti and the postulate of a legally binding form of marriage as clarifying the problem and ending the casuistry. Basically, he comments on the so-called sponsalia doctrine: “It is only to be noted that the essential question of when the consensus founding marriage should be assumed and when the beginning of the vinculum indissolubile should be assumed, had to remain without a generally valid answer.” (Stephan Buchholz, “Justus Henning Böhmer (1674–1749) and Canon Law,” Ius Commune 18 (1991), 37–49; here: S. 47.) 96  Cf. especially Luther, Von Ehesachen, p.214: “So now the decision is: What is joined together by God’s word, that God has joined together, and nothing else. Now let the secret betrothal prove that the word of God is there, and that he has obeyed or commanded it. Say, where do you know that God hath joined you together? give a sign that God hath done this, and not thyself upon God. It is rather God and his word, that is, the obedience of the elders, which God hath openly commanded, and God is commanded in the same, and hath promised such a covenant, and hath joined nothing together.” 91


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polemicizes against the canonical distinction between verba de futuro and verba de praesenti, with which the church ‘interposed’ itself as a legal instance, as it were, between the betrothal and sexual union as the legal instance constituting marriage. According to Luther, the expression of wanting to have each other is valid, whether pronounced in the future tense or the present tense.97 ‘Betrothed’ and ‘spouses’ thus become synonymous terms for him: ‘It is just as much a marriage after the public betrothal as after the wedding’.98 In his succession, this consensus of the couple was to come into irresolvable conflict with ‘speaking together’, which Luther recommends to pastors in the Traubüchlein (1529), together with the words according to Mt 10:9, at first only as an ecclesiastical blessing of marriage: “Thus I pronounce them wedded in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, Amen.”99 The fact that the priest ‘pronounces’ the couple together by divine proxy forms the main argument for increasingly seeing in him a minister of church and state who ‘copulates’ the couple in a religio-legal manner. Apart from all the patriarchal and social normative effects that Luther’s prototypical ‘doctrine of marriage’ had on the Protestant pastorate, its (state) political and revolutionary explosive power lies in the legal vacuum it created, or– formulated in legal theology– in the fact that it was supposed to belong to two legal circles (secular law and the lex Christi).100 Luther eliminated, pointedly, not the sacrament from marriage, but the contract. The power-political explosive of this conception of marriage did not explode in Germany, unlike in revolutionary France, until the second half of the nineteenth century. Here, marriage only became an object of dispute in the power struggle between church and state that accompanied the formation of the nation state. Prior to that, the “profanation of marriage in legislation and jurisdiction”101 while at the same time spiritualizing the marriage state as a dwindling stage of a divine institution in the Lutheran homeland promoted a typically German, Protestant philosophy of marriage, which at its core did not have a destabilizing but rather a stabilizing effect on state and church. Its method is natural and

 Cf. Ibid., p.211f.: “Just as they [the canons; note D.S..] have also played a foolish game with verbis de presenti vel de futuro, With this they have also torn apart many marriages that were valid according to their law and bound those that were not valid, For these words ‘I will have you as my wife’ or ‘I will take you, I will have you’, ‘You shall be mine’ and the like they have commonly called verba de futuro and given for, which one’s name should thus say: Accipio te in uxorem, I take thee to be my wife, the woman’s name thus: I take thee to be my husband. And they have not seen nor perceived that it is not necessary to speak German when one speaks de presenti. But that is spoken de presenti: I will have you, Ego volo te habere, est presentis temporis, non futuri. Therefore no German man speaks of a future engagement when he says ‘I will have you’ or ‘take you’. For one does not speak ‘I will have you,’ as they chuckle with ‘Accipiam te,’ but ‘Accipio te’ actually means in German ‘Ich will dich nehmen’ or ‘haben,’ and is understood de presenti, which he now speaks with such words ia and gives his will therein.” 98  Ibid., p.231. 99  Luther, Ein Traubüchlein, p.77. 100  Cf. Dieterich, Das protestantische Eherecht, p.35. 101  Cf. Buchholz, “Contributions to Marriage and Family Law of the nineteenth Century,” p.246. 97

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rational, metaphysical, social-reformist and, in tendency, anti-revolutionary and anti-French.102 Marital (law) philosophers generally profile marriage as a moral-religious bonding element that is always inadequately described as a contract and whose product is a male-legal family-person. One must say ‘generally’, as individual views of marriage vary and emphasis is placed differently.103 The common minimum denominator, however, is that the conjugal union was not conceived in hostile demarcation from an external, politico-legal sphere of activity of the state, but as a metaphysical, moral-religious foundation of the same. Kant, Fichte and Hegel are not concerned with a couple relationship that must be defended against another right (or two competing rights such as that of church and state), but with a unity – the family represented by the man– that makes a legal relationship between (male) individual and state possible in the first place. At the heart of the argument is the identification of marriage with an internalized, moralized, and disciplined love. “Marriage is not at all merely a juridical society, such as the state; it is a natural and moral society,” writes Johann Gottlieb Fichte in 1796/97.104 “[It] is a perfect union of two persons of both sexes, founded by the sexual instinct, which is its own end.”105 Monogamy and indissolubility of the couple do not result from the effigy function of a transcendent relationship between Christ and believer, but from the nature of the sexual relationship: “The conjugal union is by its nature inseparable and eternal, and is necessarily concluded as eternal [italics D.S.]. […] There must first be a marriage before there can be any question of a marriage right […] at all.”106 Fichte’s marriage describes a pre-legal individuation process from which, thanks to female ‘love’ and male ‘magnanimity’, two morally equal beings – a female-family interior and a male-state exterior– and only one male-legal subject emerge. The married woman is ‘utterly annihilated’ for the state as a juridical person, he writes bluntly.107 Fichte’s consequences for marriage law broadly confirm the existing marriage legislation of  Cf. on this finding and the deviations in the secret male debates of the “Society of Friends of the Enlightenment” with its publication organ the Berlinische Monatsschrift: Michael Taylor, “‘What Does Enlightenment Mean?’ A Footnote to the Marriage Crisis”, in: Albrecht Koschorke, Nacim Ghanbari etal., Before the Family. Boundary Conditions of a Modern Institution, Munich: Fink 2010, pp.51–95. 103  Cf. also Luhmann, Liebe als Passion. Zur Codierung von Intimität, Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp 1994 (1982), p.171: “One has the overall impression that the differences from author to author in this period are greater than the differences between historical epochs.” 104  Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Grundlage des Naturrechts nach Prinzipien der Wissenschaftslehre (1796), Hamburg: Meiner 1979, p.298. 105  Ibid., p.309. 106  Ibid., p.311. 107  “In the concept of marriage lies the most unlimited subjection of the woman to the will of the man; not for a juridical but for a moral reason. She must submit for the sake of her own honor.– Woman does not belong to herself, but to man. In recognizing marriage, that is, this relationship, which is well known to the State, and which is not established by the State, but by something higher than the State, the State refrains from regarding woman as a juridical person. The man entirely takes her place; she is entirely annihilated for the state by her marriage, according to her own necessary will, which the state has guaranteed.” (Ibid.., p.320f.) 102


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his time; he explicitly advocates for the participation of a clergyman as an “official of the state” in marriage.108 Kant, in his famous definition of marriage, admittedly places the union of man and woman on a different level; it is not love but a legal sexual intercourse that, according to him, makes the matrimonium: “the union of two persons of different sexes into the life-long mutual possession of their sexual properties.”109 This definition, to which Walter Benjamin attested ‘factual perfection’ and ‘sublime cluelessness’ in Goethe’s Die Wahlverwandtschaften, seems modern insofar as it is indeed based on reciprocity and relationality.110 But even he, after all, aims only at the restoration of the single personality threatened by sexual intercourse, in which man makes himself the thing, and which, in domestic society, naturally passes into the householder’s right.111 Hegel corrects Kant’s approach to contract law in terms of intellectual philosophy by defining marriage, on the one hand, as a suspension of the “contractual standpoint” and, on the other, by tying it back to the ritual of marriage. Dialectically, marriage is characterized both by an inner relationship that exists only in itself, which Hegel calls “liveliness,” and by a “self-consciousness, an outer, spiritual unity,” namely, “self-conscious love.”112 Unlike Fichte and Kant, he does not see the consummation of marriage in the sexual act, but in the linguistic act of marriage, which marks the transition from the ‘living’ to the ‘spiritual’, moral relation. According to him The solemn declaration of consent to the moral bond of marriage, and the corresponding recognition and confirmation of it by the family and community (that the church intervenes in this respect is another provision not to be elaborated here), constitutes the formal conclusion and reality of marriage, so that this union is constituted as moral only by the preceding of this ceremony as the accomplishment of the substantial by the sign, language, as the most spiritual being of the spiritual (§78).113

 “That marriage, being something founded on morality, and par excellence existing only by it, should be contracted under the eyes of those who are to be the educators of the people to morality, i.e., the clergy, is very reasonable; but in so far as the marriage ceremony has juridical validity, the clergyman is an official of the state.” (Ibid.., p.317.) 109  Immanuel Kant, Metaphysik der Sitten (1797), ed. Bernd Ludwig, Hamburg: Meiner 1998, First Part, § 24, p.94. 110  On the points of contact between Kant’s definition of marriage and Rousseau’s social contract, see Reinhard Brandt, “Kant’s Eherecht,” in: Maximilian Bergengruen, Johannes F. Lehmann, Hubert Thüring (eds.), Sexualität – Recht – Leben. Die Entstehung eines Dispositivs um 1800, Munich: Fink 2005, pp.113–131. On Romanticism, esp. Novalis, cf. below Sect. 4.2: Excursus: Romantic Coupling, Transcending Marriage (Novalis). 111  Cf. Kant, Metaphysik der Sitten, § 25, p.94: “For the natural use which one sex makes of the sexual organs of the other is a pleasure to which one part gives itself to the other. In this act a man makes himself a thing, which is contrary to the right of mankind in his own person. This is possible only on the single condition that, in acquiring one person as a thing from the other, the latter in turn acquires the former; for in this way he in turn acquires himself and restores his personality.” 112  Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts (1821), ed. Klaus Grotsch and Elisabeth Weißer-Lohmann (= Gesammelte Werke, vol. 14), Hamburg: Meiner 2009, § 161, p.145. 113  Ibid., § 164, p.147. 108

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In this emphasis on the linguistic nature of marriage, Hegel refers to its aesthetic nature and, in a sense, formulates a hypothesis that underlies the textual readings that follow, according to which a ‘marriage’ can be produced linguistically, narratively, epically, or novelistically. Hegel formulates the idea that marriage is the founding fiction of a polity more decisively than his predecessors: Marriage, and essentially monogamy, is one of the absolute principles on which the morality of a community is founded; the foundation of marriage is therefore listed as one of the moments of the divine or heroic foundation of states.114

If in Kant and Fichte one can only speak of a latent analogization of the foundation of marriage and society, then Hegel identifies in it an ‘absolute principle’ for the ‘morality of a polity’. As a result, the question of the division of powers is thereby rendered null, as it was in Fichte, in a complementary gender order that assigns the outside of politics to the man and to the woman the ‘piety’ in the family. The relationality of the couple is eliminated in favour of its ‘family state purpose’. It will be necessary to return to the fact that in Rousseau, to whom the German philosophers of the state and marriage all refer, the couple difference is not so easily eliminated at the end of the chapter.

2.2 Band ofDivision: TheRevolutionary Marriage Legislation The revolutionary regicide in France, whose collective traumatic consequences are well known, corresponds on the level of private law to what is, quite literally, a revolutionary divorce legislation. In his book Le Contrat sentimental, Francis Ronsin argues that for the question of the relationship between church and state, it is less the introduction of civil marriage in France than divorce law that should be regarded as a seismograph.115 One should therefore consider divorce before marriage The view of marriage should therefore be preceded by that of divorce.

Divorce The first revolutionary constitution of 3rd September 1792, which designated marriage as a civil contract, leaves the issue of divorce unadressed.116 But the supporters of the Revolution immediately demand the possibility of divorce as a logical  Ibid., § 167, p.149.  Francis Ronsin, Le Contrat sentimental. Débats sur le mariage, l’amour, le divorce, de l’Ancien Régime à la Restauration, Alençon: Éditions Aubier 1990. 116  The following summary is based on Ronsin, Le Contrat sentimental. A short form of the debate can also be found in: id., “Indissolubilité du mariage ou divorce”, in: Irène Théry, Christian Biet (eds.), La famille, la loi, l’état de la Révolution au Code civil, Paris: Éditions du Centre Georges Pompidou 1989, pp.322–334. 114 115


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consequence of the nationalization of marriage. The Revolution’s journalistic protocol organ, the Moniteur universel, notes on 21st March 1792: “On demande de toute part la loi sur le divorce.” (“The law on divorce is requested on all sides”)117 The law finally arrives on the eve of the Republic. It is passed unanimously on 20th September 1792, just hours before the National Convention convenes. When Dieter Schwab writes that this divorce law was “almost an attack on the institution of marriage itself,”118 it should be added that this attack on marriage was aimed first and foremost at the institution of the old state, the ancien régime, and could paradoxically at the same time be celebrated as the triumph of an institution that guaranteed individual rights and private autonomy. The divorce law of 20th September 1792 went far beyond the grounds for divorce traditionally accepted as conforming to Scripture (such as adultery and malicious desertion), even in Protestant marriage law.119 It was to last only a few years and remain unsurpassed in its liberality until Valéry Giscard d’Estaing’s divorce reform in 1975.120 The foremost reason for divorce, in consistent analogy to the freedom of marriage, is the mutual agreement (“consentement mutuel”). In second place comes the possibility for both spouses to establish an incompatibility of minds (“la simple allégation d’incompatibilité d’humeur ou de caractère” [“the mere allegation of incompatibility of mood or character”], Art. 1, Sect. III), which introduces non-commitment and dissolvability in principle into the bond of the marital union. Only this ground for divorce makes the marriage contract an individual-law contract. Grounds for divorce related to ‘external facts’– “motifs déterminés”– are only dealt with in the third and last place (Article 1, Section IV). Mention is made of insanity, delinquency, crime, breach of morals, malicious desertion, absence and emigration. It is as revealing as it is logical that one looks in vain for adultery, which is listed first in the General Prussian Land Law of 1794, for example, in the revolutionary divorce law.121 In the logic of individual law, adultery now really becomes an unprovable and invisible crime that only the couple themselves can judge.122 In practical terms, revolutionary divorce was a (mainly) urban,

 Cited in: Ronsin, Le Contrat sentimental, p.102.  Schwab, Grundlagen und Gestalt der staatlichen Ehegesetzgebung, p.219. 119  Cf. “Loi Qui détermine les causes, le mode & les effets du Divorce” (20 September 1792), reprinted in facsimile in Ronsin, Le Contrat sentimental, pp.110–121. 120  See Suzanne Desan, The Family on Trial in Revolutionary France, Berkeley/Los Angeles: University of California Press 2004. 121  The divorce petitions of the time show that adultery was subsumed under other grounds, interestingly under sexually different ones: While the woman accused the man of crime (in order to have any chance of a successful divorce), the man usually charged the adulterous woman with immorality (“dérèglement de mœurs notoire”). Cf. Michèle Bordeaux, “Le maître et l’infidèle. Des relations personnelles entre mari et femme de l’ancien droit au Code civil’, in: Théry, Biet (eds.), La famille, la loi, l’état de la Révolution au Code civil, pp.432–446. 122  In Manzoni’s juxtaposition of two legal cases in the Promessi sposi, the problem of a determinability of the breach of law reappears in the form of the ‘adulterous’ nun Gertrude and the plague saints. The latter, as the Colonna Infame explicitly states, were guilty of a crime ‘which did not exist’, ‘che non c’era’. Cf. below Sect. 3.3: Lucia in the process of sacralization (esp. “Between act and language. On the question of guilt”). 117 118

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petit-bourgeois and predominantly female phenomenon. Its legalization had, on the one hand, a women’s emancipatory effect and, on the other, that of increasingly considering a heart inclination as a prerequisite for marriage.123 Freedom to divorce became a metaphor for the newly and contractually founded republic at the moment when another implication was highlighted that distinguished it from the old practice– divorce and legal separation -: the possibility of remarriage. And this was precisely the case. Thus, in a speech, the Sansculotte Chaumette praises two couples who were able to find each other anew and marry because of the new legislation, saying, “Le divorce est le Dieu tutélaire de l’hymen” (“The divorce is the tutelary God of the hymen.”) 124 Thus the Republic celebrates itself in the new paradoxical pairing of divorce and marriage. Mutual consensus and incompatibility of minds advanced to become the grounds for divorce that made the new unity of the nation possible in the first place. The liberal right to divorce seems like a revolutionary breach of the dam, and the debates about divorce are the flip side of those revolutionary hymns of praise that celebrate the bourgeois marriage contract as the founding document of the new state constitution. In the theatre, the right to divorce is celebrated with plays that paradoxically omit the representation of divorce for the sake of a reunion.125 Wieland’s novella Friendship and Love on Trial (1805), in which two couples find their way back to each other again via the temporary change of partners, takes up precisely this paradox. And for all its chemistry, Goethe’s Die Wahlverwandtschaften experiment of 1809 would have been unthinkable without the background of revolutionary divorce law. Only as a result of this do the politically revolutionary implications of Edward’s visions of love and partner-­swapping become legible. It is only in Divorce Law that Goethe’s poetologically systematic connection between community-creating (marriage) epic and novel critical of institutions becomes apparent. The revolutionary law of divorce enabled the French nation, which re-set itself on 26th August 1789 with the Declaration of the Rights of Man, to also legitimise itself as a new, organic body. The 3rd article of the “Déclaration des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen” (“Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen”) states, “Le principe de toute souveraineté réside essentiellement dans la nation: nul corps, nul individu ne peut exercer d’autorité qui n’en émane expressément.” (“The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation: no body, no individual can exercise any authority that does not emanate expressly from it”)126 This could only workdue to the fact that they were breaking up a clergy which belonged to another,

 See the chapter on “The Revolutionary Practice of Divorce” in Desan, The Family on Trial, pp.93–140. For an evaluation of the Lyon figures (with the same findings as Desan), see Dominique Dessertine, “Le divorce sous la Révolution: audace ou nécessité?”, in Théry, Biet (eds.), La famille, la loi, l’état de la Révolution au Code civil, pp.312–321. 124  Le Moniteur universel, 23 October 1792; quoted in: Ronsin, Le Contrat sentimental, p.128. 125  Cf. Ronsin, “Indissolubilité du mariage ou divorce,” p.327. He cites the plays Le Divorce (1793) by Desfontaines, La Double Réconciliation (1798) by Dupont de l’Ille, and L’utilité du divorce (1798) by Augustin Prévost. 126  Cited in: ibid., p.85. 123


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supranational, celibate body of the Church at the same time; and so, in February 1790, the Assemblée nationale abolished life vows. The Constituent Assembly adopted a new constitution for the clergy, the Constitution civile du clergé, in July 1790, which divided the French clergy into a prorevolutionary party that took the oath to the Constitution (clergé jureur) and opponents of the Revolution (le clergé réfractaire). After the abolition of ecclesiastical orders, the question of ‘disengagement’ from the vow of ordination raised another; namely, whether priests and nuns should be allowed to marry.127 One of the central figures of the constitutional clergy was the Jansenist-influenced (and vehemently opposed to priestly marriage) Abbé Henri Grégoire (1750–1831), whose vision was a national, republican church and who was in close contact with the Abbé Eustachio Degola, under whose spiritual guidance Manzoni’s wife, Enrichetta Blondel, converted from Calvinism to Roman Catholicism in 1810 (the year of her church wedding in Paris).128 As long as there was no civil marriage, but priests as traditional administrators of marriage had already been declared civil servants, marriage impediment law,129 priestly marriage and divorce presented themselves as one and the same problem. Similar to Luther’s use of ‘clerical matrimony’ against celibacy, the Declaration of Human Rights creates a legal vacuum that culminates, in the freedom to divorce on 20th September 1792, without bothering with the problem of institutionalization and temporalization. Once again, it becomes clear how marriage functions as a contractual and organic binding and divorcing instrument.130 The freedom to divorce was a short-lived dream (or perhaps nightmare) that coincided exactly with the Terreur period. According to Ronsin, the mood shifts after the fall of Robespierre and the victory of the counter-revolution.131 The project of a uniform Code civil had been in existence since 1793; however, after a few laws to make divorce easier in procedural terms, divorce law was gradually restricted until it was completely abolished again in 1816 under the influence of Louis de Bonald. The orator, jurist and statesman Jean-Étienne-Marie Portalis played a decisive role in bringing about a compromise between royalists and republicans in the Directoire. Irène Théry and Christian Biet’s analysis of the “Discours préliminaire”, which was delivered to the Conseil d’État in 1801 as a preliminarium to Napoleon’s  Cf. E. Claire Cage, Unnatural Frenchmen. The Politics of Priestly Celibacy and Marriage, 1720–1815, Charlottesville/London: University of Virginia Press 2015. 128  Cf. the collection of material and sources by Angelo de Gubernatis, Eustachio Degola. Il clero costituzionale e la conversione della famiglia Manzoni. Spogli da un carteggio inedito, Firenze: G.Barbèra 1882. 129  Coinciding with the constitution of the Civil Constitution (July 1790) was the affair of the actor Talma, whose marriage was refused by the priest of Saint-Sulpice (cf. Ronsin, Le Contrat sentimental, p.98). 130  Against the background of the marriage discourse, the project of an ‘organic’ conception of community in German Romanticism would also have to be put into perspective, which can then only be set off to a certain extent as ajuridic from that of a supposedly ‘legally’ instituted, French nation. Cf. on this Ethel Matala de Mazza, The Authorized Body. Zum Projekt einer organischen Gemeinschaft in der Politischen Romantik, Freiburg: Rombach 1999. 131  Cf. Ronsin, Le Contrat sentimental, p.153. 127

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Code civil, has shown how Portalis, thanks to brilliant marital rhetoric, managed to smooth the waters and present Napoleon’s Code civil as a solution.132 In 1803, the Conseil d’État adopted the new divorce law, which was incorporated into the Code civil a year later.133 Like the Code civil’s marriage law, it is a patriarchal divorce law that, as if to replace the king’s lost center of power, enthrones the man as the owner and head of the home and family.134 Drastically, it illustrates the retraction of an individual legal conception of marriage in favor of a property and disciplinary institution represented by the husband. In first place among the grounds for divorce is now unequal adultery: while adultery on the part of the wife is in principle grounds for divorce for the husband, this applies to the wife only if the husband’s adultery takes place in the common home (“lorsqu’il aura tenu sa concubine dans la maison commune” [“when he has had his concubine in the shared household”], Art. CCXXV).135 Divorce on the grounds of incompatibility of minds is eliminated; mutual consent becomes an exception with strict procedural requirements; instead, legal separation is reintroduced as a possible form of divorce. A few years later, Bonaparte admittedly would not and could not resort to the civil law institution of divorce that he had created. His own childless marriage to Joséphine, whom he had married civilly in 1796 and ecclesiastically in 1804 (for the imperial coronation), was annulled in December 1809 by the ecclesiastical court– the Parisian officialate– i.e. declared non-existent ex post facto.

Marriage On 20th September 1792, not only was the Divorce Act passed, but also a decree ordering the introduction of civil registers for birth, marriage, divorce and death, as well as procedural rules for the registrar (“officier public”) at marriages. Historically, this is the founding law of modern civil marriage.136 This law also responded to a legal vacuum, namely the civil contract of marriage introduced by the French Constitutional Convention (3rd September 1791):

 Irène Théry, Christian Biet, “Portalis ou l’esprit des siècles. La rhétorique du mariage dans le Discours préliminaire au projet de Code civil”, in: Dies. (ed.), La famille, la loi, l’état de la Révolution au Code civil, pp.104–121. 133  “Loi sur le Divorce” (30 Ventôse, an XI de la République une et indivisible), printed in facsimile in: Ronsin, Le Contrat sentimental, pp.219–234. 134  Cf. Anne Verjus, Le bon mari. Une histoire politique des hommes et des femmes à l’époque révolutionnaire, Paris: Fayard 2010. Furthermore, the exemplary presentation based on the surviving correspondence of two families from Lyon: Dies, Denise Davidson, Le roman conjugal. Chroniques de la vie familiale à l’époque de la Révolution et de l’Empire, Seyssel: Champ Vallon 2011. 135  “Loi sur le Divorce” (1803) quoted in: Ronsin, Le Contrat sentimental, p.219. 136  Thus profiled in Hermann Conrad, “Die Grundlegung der modernen Zivilehe durch die französische Revolution. Ein Beitrag zu neueren Geschichte des Familienrechts,” Zeitschrift der SavignyStiftung für Rechtsgeschichte. Germanistische Abteilung 67 (1950), 336–372. 132


2  Marriage Around 1800: Between Contract andSacrament La loi ne considère le mariage que comme contrat civil– Le Pouvoir législatif établira pour tous les habitants, sans distinction, le mode par lequel les naissances, marriages et décès seront constatés; et il désignera les officiers publics qui en recevront et conserveront les actes. 137

The wording of the constitution follows the Gallican-Regalist tradition of a complementary, dual legislation of state and church, in which contract and sacrament are conceived as separable components of marriage. By stating here that the law ‘regards marriage only as a contract’, the wording accommodates the Church’s claim to sacramental jurisdiction.138 It is true that even before the Revolution, the Edict of Versailles (1787) was enacted under Louis XVI, a law which, as a result of public pressure, introduced a relative emergency civil marriage for non-Catholics.139 But it was not until the Civil Status Act of 20th September 1792 that civil marriage at the registry office (‘maison commune’) was generalised into a general principle of marriage.140 The relationship between civil and ecclesiastical marriage thus remained unresolved for the time being. In historical retrospect, one can speak of a compulsory civil marriage only from 1802, when Napoleon had the prohibition of church premarriage anchored in the so-called Organic Articles, which supplemented (or subverted) the Concordat with the Pope (1801) in domestic policy.141 In contrast to liberal divorce law, marriage law did not give rise to endless debate in the various bills for the new civil code. The Code civil, which came into force in 1804, was able to follow up on the decree of 20th September 1792 with far greater ease. However, legislative subtleties show how the focus shifted from a revolutionary, constitutional pathos of marriage to a law-preserving function in the service of ordre public. Firstly, it is noteable that the Code civil refrains from defining marriage.142 In 1801, the Conseil d’Etat rejected Article 1 of a bill originating with Jacqueminot, which stated: ‘La Loi ne considère le mariage que sous ses rapports civils et politiques’.143 With the argument that one does not want to proclaim any more self-evident things, the many years of discussions about the nature of marriage are cut short. Thus the 5th title “Du mariage” (“On marriage”) in the first book of the Code civil does not begin with a marriage provision (as, for example, the Preußische Landrecht (Prussian Land Law) of 1794), but in medias res with a  “The law considers marriage only as a civil contract - The Legislature shall establish for all inhabitants, without distinction, the method by which births, marriages and deaths shall be recorded; and it shall designate the public officers who shall receive and keep the records thereof.” Constitution de 1791, Title II, Art. 2; cited in: (21.04.2015). 138  Ronsin points out that the original bill did not initially say “ne considère” but “ne reconnaît” and that a more conciliatory formulation was thus expressly chosen (Ronsin, Le Contrat sentimental, p.95). 139  Cf. Conrad, “The Foundation of Modern Civil Marriage by the French Revolution,” p.353. 140  Cf. Adhémar Esmein, Précis élémentaire de l’histoire du droit français de 1789 à 1804. Révolution, Consulat et Empire, Paris: Larose, Tenin 1911, p.226. 141  Cf. Waldmann, Das System der Konkordatsehe in Italien, p.26. 142  Cf. Théry/Biet, “Portalis ou l’esprit des siècles”, p.105. 143  Cf. Conrad, “The Foundation of Modern Civil Marriage by the French Revolution,” p.358f. 137

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chapter on the “Qualités et conditions requises pour pouvoir contracter mariage” (“Qualifications and requirements for marriage”).144 A kind of definition of marriage, on the other hand, can be found, as already mentioned, in Portalis’s “Discours préliminaire” (“Preliminary speech”), which speaks of marriage as a “contrat essentiellement indissoluble” (“essentially indissoluble contract”). There, in the introductory section to the entire Civil Code, the orator and jurist Portalis, who was Napoleon’s ‘ministre des Cultes’ from 1804, turns marriage into a rhetorical and literary figure to make us forget the ideological wars of the recent past. With a marriage novel à la Rousseau, he promises a France breathing a sigh of relief (‘Aujourd’hui, la France respire.’) and the new dawn of an indissoluble community.145 A second point concerns the formal requirement for marriage. It is true that it is roughly based on former canonical requirements. A banns (to be performed twice), the conclusion of the marriage, the certification and archiving are now subject to a public official (‘l’officier de l’état civil’), who marries the nupturients in the parish of the husband or wife in the presence of four witnesses. However, the marriage act additionally requires the registrar to read out the section ‘Des droits et des devoirs respectifs des époux’ from the Code civil.146 Articles 212 to 226 listed there summarize the patriarchal understanding of marriage in the Napoleonic Civil Code. The much quoted Article 213 states succinctly: “Le mari doit protection à sa femme, la femme obéissance à son mari” (“The husband owes protection to his wife, the wife obedience to her husband”). 147 This is not only far removed from the marriage pathos of 1791/1792, but also from the ideas of an Olympe de Gouges, who had concluded her famous Déclaration des droits de la Femme of 1790 with a proposal for marriage reform– no less than Portali’s, which drew on Rousseau. According to De Gouges’s Forme du Contrat social de l’Homme et de la Femme, the (indissoluble or separable) couple should have a joint right to decide about childen, property, and inheritance. In this way, it would contribute to the perfectibility of a happy government (“un gouvernement heureux”).148

 The Code Napoléon, adopted in 1804, regulates marriage in Articles 63–76 (“Des actes de mariage”, Book 1, II. title, 3rd chap.), 144–228 (“Du mariage”, Book 1, V. title), 229–307 (“Du divorce”, Book 1, VI. title) and 1387–1581 (“Du contrat de mariage et des droits respectifs des époux”, Book 3, V. title). Cf. Code civil des Français. Edition originale et seule officielle, Paris: Imprimerie de la République 1804. Cf. on the other hand the Allgemeine Landrecht für die Preußischen Staaten von 1794 (ALR), ed. Hans Hattenhauer, Frankfurt a. M./Berlin: Alfred Metzner Verlag 1970, p.345, whose First Title of Part Two, “Von der Ehe” (“On Marriage”) begins with the paragraphs: “§ 1. The main purpose of marriage is the production and upbringing of children. § 2. A valid marriage may also be contracted for mutual support alone.” 145  Cf. Théry/Biet, “Portalis ou l’esprit des siècles”, pp.113–115. 146  Cf. Civil Code, Book I, Title I, Chap. III, Art. 75. 147  Civil Code, Book One, Title V, Chap. VI, Art. 213. 148  Olympe de Gouges, “Déclaration des droits de la Femme” (1790), in This, Ecrits politiques 1788–1791, vol. 1, Paris: côté-femmes éditions 1993, pp.204–215; here: S. 212. 144


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Marriage Practice: Festival, Law, Origin But how should one imagine a marriage in the revolutionary years? As far as I can see, there has been no systematic study of this, but in any case, we can assume an inconsistent, regionally different and turbulent practice. Ritual, custom and imposed legislation collide here. And before Napoleon had the patriarchal marriage stylized with the Code civil as the legal founding figure of a new empire, various forces fought for the power of disposal over the form of marriage. Marriage became part of the revolutionary cult that was to institutionalize the French republican constitution through a new calendar.149 The civil constitution of the clergy (July/August 1790) brings about the separation of canonical and constitutional-ecclesiastical marriage. The introduction of civil marriage in September 1792 is followed on 22nd January 1793, by a decree issued by the National Convention to legally enforce the separation of contract and sacrament: Priests are forbidden to keep parallel church registers, to publish banns, or to set up marriage barriers on their own authority (based on canonical marriage law).150 For a brief moment, a state church sworn to the nation seems to adopt an ecclesiastical-sacramental marriage constitutional monarchy.151 But the civil constitution of the clergy– already condemned by Rome in March 1790– is once again abolished as a state church and legal institution by the National Convention shortly after Robespierre’s fall.152 After the Terreur, the Rousseauist supporters of an offensive “religion civile” (“civil religion”) prevailed over the advocates of private religious freedom and state religious neutrality.153 State priests’ salaries are stopped, churches are closed for religious worship, clerical garb is banned in public spaces. Esmein comments: “C’était presque mettre la religion catholique au régime du culte privé” (“It was almost putting the Catholic religion in the hands of a private cult”),154 so that– insofar as they still existed and still performed ecclesiastical acts– priests loyal to Rome or also constitutional priests continued to conclude marriages just as secretly and legally invalid as was the case in the Ancien Régime with the Huguenot mariages au désert. The years 1795 to 1799 under the Directoire are thus marked by the coexistence of a clandestine or tolerated cult practice, administered by an ideologically disrupted clergy, and a civil marriage practice under public law, ideologically  Cf. Mona Ozouf, La fête révolutionnaire. 1789–1799, Paris: Gallimard 1976. Ozouf mainly analyzes the newly introduced national-political holidays. She addresses the superimposition of private-sacred cult practices (baptism, wedding, funeral) in the last chapter (“La fête révolutionnaire: un transfert de sacralité,” pp.317–340). 150  Esmein, Précis élémentaire, p.226f. 151  Cf. ibid., p.169: “La constitution civile du clergé était le contraire de la séparation de l’Église et de l’État. C’était une Église d’État que l’Assemblée constituante avait créée et plus profondément incorporée à l’État que ne l’était l’ancienne.” 152  Ibid., p.173. 153  Cf. ibid., p.172f. 154  Ibid., p.177. 149

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unsupported by any majority. (Marriage) legislation alone was not enough to institutionalize the new republic, such is the insight of the post-terreur revolutionaries, and prorevolutionary efforts shift from the legal to education and cultural practice. Institutionalization is the key term for the final phase of the Revolution, in which (civil) marriage is more and more inserted into the Revolutionary calendar established in 1792.155 For the revolutionaries, marriage was not to be a sacramental sign of something invisible, but a practice that guaranteed the visibility of the new community as the most original and natural. The manifestation of the marriage consensus before the registrar should be doubled in a celebration that is part of a great peace festival of the revolution.156 The couple is to be absorbed into the community of the new, republican man. While still under Robespierre and as part of the cult of the supreme being he instituted, a decree was issued incorporating a “fête de l’Amour conjugal” (“celebration of conjugal love”) into the Revolutionary calendar.157 At first, this was only an abstract day of celebration and commemoration. From the pens of commissioners who were concerned with the introduction and control of the new social practices come the Decade Reports, which testify to how laborious it was to stop the church-religious celebrations of baptism, marriage, and burial. For example, there were complaints that the wedding feast and wedding night continued to be celebrated only after the church marriage and not directly after having gone to the municipal official.158 With the resurgence of counter-­revolutionary and ecclesiastical forces, the revolutionaries focused on theophilanthropy and the expansion of the cult of the Decade.159 A ‘Fête des Époux’ was introduced on the 3rd Brumaire Year IV (1796), to be celebrated annually on the 10th Floréal. At the same time, the Ministry of the Interior issued decrees and circulars to the departments on how to celebrate the festival.160 Marches, speeches, civic honours, hymns, references to Rousseau, the father of the Revolution, and not least the protocols to be drawn up afterwards ensure the visibility of a new nation and a new marriage. Marriage is supposed to be a national holiday and at the same time an institutional part of the cult of the decade. In order to ensure the popularity of the national holiday, it is linked to marriage ceremonies that are to take place on that day. In order to enhance the value of the Décadi as a day of rest and a holiday, the law of 13th Fructidor Year VI (1798) stipulates that weddings must henceforth take place centrally in the district capital on every tenth day of the republican calendar.161 Although  Cf. Ozouf, La fête révolutionnaire, pp.332 ff; Desan, The Family on Trial, pp.276ff.  Cf. Karlheinz Stierle, “Die Friedensfeier– Sprache und Fest im revolutionären und nachrevolutionären Frankreich und bei Hölderlin”, in: Walter Haug, Rainer Warning (eds.), Das Fest, Munich: Fink 1989, pp.481–525. 157  Cf. art. “Mariage”, in: Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, sp. 2274. 158  Ozouf, La fête révolutionnaire, p.319. 159  Cf. Albert Mathiez, La théophilanthropie et le culte décadaire 1796–1801. Essai sur l’histoire religieuse de la Révolution, Paris: Félix Alcan 1903. 160  Cf. Verjus, Le bon mari, pp.275–307. 161   Cf. Michael Meinzer, Der französische Revolutionskalender (1792–1805). Planung, Durchführung und Scheitern einer politischen Zeitrechnung, Munich: Oldenbourg 1992, p.69f. 155 156


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already controversial at its introduction, the law applies only up to the 7th Thermidor year VIII (1800) however. After Napoleon’s coup d’état and his tactically clever invoking of the decree of 20th September 1792, which intended Sundays for marriage, only the date of the banns on the Décadi and a period of eight days for the marriage were specified.162 In her analysis of speeches written on the occasion of the ‘Fête des Époux’, Anne Verjus shows how it is not so much a couple consensus as a family consensus that is celebrated here: “La fête des Époux est une fête des parents et, plus largement, la fête de la famille.” (“The celebration of the bridegroom is a celebration of parents and, more broadly, the celebration of the family.”)163 The focus is not on being a couple, on mutual consensus or fidelity, but on its product: a family that transcends the biological, that not only begets but also adopts children, and that is the pars pro toto of the Republic. Of course, we are not talking about contentious issues in the marriage law being debated in legislative commissions at the same time; rather, the enacted celebrations, in their organic metaphor, compensate for existing political and legal differences. The state-ordained national celebration stages, as one might say with Slavoj Žižek, a “surplus of the real” (“Überschuss des Realen”): the nation as an “instance in whose name the ‘organic’ ties must be dissolved, and the ‘residue of pre-modernity in modernity’”.164 In the act of marriage, state and registrar officials, themselves ideally exclusively spouses and fathers, paper over the difference between the large, public family and the small, private family. Symptomatic of this is the Revolution’s tendency to make marriage a condition of political office. Being married becomes a civic duty, as stated in Art. 4 of the Déclaration des devoirs de l’homme et du citoyen, preamble to the Constitution of Year III (1795): “Nul n’est bon citoyen, s’il n’est bon fils, bon père, bon frère, bon ami, bon époux.” (“No one is a good citizen unless he is a good son, a good father, a good brother, a good friend, a good husband”) 165 Indeed, only those who were either married or widowed could be elected to the Conseil des Anciens, which, together with the Conseil des Cinq-Cents, formed the legislative parliament (corps législatif) during the Directoire (1795–1799). A proposal of the constituent commission initially even envisaged introducing the marriage condition for both chambers.166 The fact that marriage took on the function of a constitutional oath is shown in all clarity in its animosity to celibacy. Marriage and celibacy become the political antagonism par excellence. Revolutionaries increased the pressure on celibate priests during and after the Terreur. Sometimes they marry to escape persecution; sometimes their marriages are celebrated as revolutionary feasts and veritable  Ibid., p.158.  Verjus, Le bon mari, p.281. 164  Slavoj Žižek, Genieße Deine Nation wie Dich selbst! Der Andere und das Böse– Vom Begehren des ethnischen Dings”, in: Joseph Vogl (ed.), Gemeinschaften. Positionen zu einer Philosophie des Politischen, Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp 1994, pp.133–164, here: p.154. 165  Constitution de la République française, Du 5 Fructidor, an III, Paris: Millet 1795, p.5f. 166  Esmein, Précis élémentaire, p. 52; see also Desan, The Family on Trial, pp. 280 f.; Cage, Unnatural Frenchmen, p.117. 162 163

2.2  Band ofDivision: TheRevolutionary Marriage Legislation


conversions from cleric to patriotic père de famille.167 After the resurgence of ecclesiastical and ecclesiastical-constitutional forces, the pressure turns from the celibate to the married priests. E.Claire Cage has shown how the 6000 or so priests who married during the Revolution were caught between all the political fronts and how inconsistent their motives for action were. In the Napoleonic and post-Napoleonic era, at least on this point, Cage argues, the state and the papacy worked in concert, through a policy of amnesty, to erase the history of this minority ‘produced’ by the Revolution from cultural memory.168 The married priest in revolutionary and post-­ revolutionary France became symptomatic of a literal foreign body to the nation. In his conjugal double bond to state and church, he came between two competing orders of power. Where republican marriage propaganda exacerbates celibacy into a synonym for political adultery, the resurgent constitutional clergy under Grégoire insists on celibacy as a condition for a priesthood that is supposed to be the moral pillar of the republic.169 Unlike in Protestant countries, neither the married priest nor uniform marriage legislation could prevail in France. While Henri Grégoire convened two national councils in 1797 and 1801,170 Bonaparte was already working on the restoration of a clearly hierarchized power relationship between throne and altar. The Concordat, which he imposed on Pope Pius VII in 1801 with dynastic calculation, put an end to legal uncertainty in the practice of marriage. Added unilaterally, the prohibition of ecclesiastical premarriages is enshrined in Art. 54 of the Organic Articles: “Art. LIV.Ils ne donneront la bénédiction nuptiale qu’à ceux qui justifieront, en bonne et due forme, avoir contracté mariage devant l’officier civil.” (“Article 54. They will give the nuptial blessing only to those who will justify, in due form, having contracted marriage before the civil officer”)171 Napoleon solves the problem of the conjugal double bind, so to speak, in his temporal prioritization. On the one hand, the French state legitimizes existing priestly marriages; on the other, the Organic Articles preclude an agreement of marriage with the exercise of ecclesiastical functions.172 One might say the conjugal relationality is transformed into a relationship between state and church in favor of a hierarchical constitution of marriage and state. The relational question is outsourced by Bonaparte from the state and decided  Cf. Cage, Unnatural Frenchmen, pp.61–91.  Ibid., p.129. 169  In 1826 Henri Grégoire, former bishop of Blois, now a private citizen and quasi truly sovereign, no longer bound by any official authority, presents a history of priestly marriage, which he wants to be understood as a history of the Revolution: Henri Grégoire, Histoire du mariage des prêtres en France, particulièrement depuis 1789, Paris: Frères Baudoin 1826. 170  Under Grégoire’s leadership, two national councils (Concile national) are held in 1797 and 1801, working on a Gallican Church with elected bishops and priests, both of which are condemned by Pius VII. “Le Concile national du 21 novembre 1797 reconnaît le droit exclusif de l’État de régler la forme et les conditions du mariage.” (Art. “Mariage,” Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, sp. 2277). 171  “Les articles organiques” (Loi du 18 germinal an X [8 avril 1802]); original text cited from the online version of Revue de droit canonique: (22.04.2015). 172  Cage, Unnatural Frenchmen, p.136. 167 168


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territorially. The (marriage) philosopher Louis de Bonald theoretically completes the legal fiction of a double– natural and divine– legislation with his 1801 writing Du divorce, where– using a motto from Rousseau’s Contrat social and in all clarity – he makes the indissoluble conjugal ruling consensus the foundation of a “société politique” (“Political society”).173 He finally puts it into practice in 1816 with his legislative proposal to abolish divorce. According to De Bonald, divorce, bi- and polygamy are synonyms that bring about a “déconstitution de la famille” (“deconstitution of the family”)174 and can only be a prelude to the ‘deconstitution’ of the state. The period of the French Revolution, it has been noted, did not produce any great literary works of art, because it sought its aesthetic and symbolic expression in the revolutionary festival.175 Far more effective, however, was the civil code that emerged from it, the Code civil, not least with its rhetorically binding power, which Napoleon himself is known to have once placed above the performance of his battles. The marriage novel of revolutionary and post-revolutionary France is a legal fiction that has two sides: the moment of revolutionary freedom of marriage, the invention of the autonomous couple, as it were, and the moment of a post-­ revolutionary, patriarchal constitution of marriage, against which– as in the ancien régime – the spouse could not violate outside of his home. It is significant that Balzac explicitly refers to De Bonald in the preface to his Comédie humaine, comparing the writer to a sovereign legislator. The writer is an “instituteur des hommes” (“teacher of men”) who has in mind not the individual but his ties and relations to the social.176 The series of individual cases in Balzac’s novels, however, result less in a founding narrative or marriage narrative, but rather in the ‘deconstitution’ of the state which, according to De Bonald, lurks in every divorce.177

2.3 Two or Many: Rousseau Between Social andMarriage Contract In the duplicate of the freedom of marriage and the patriarchal marriage institution, French marriage legislation refers to Rousseau’s marriage novel, and not only to the novel Julie; or, The New Heolise, but also to the political contract fiction of the  Louis de Bonald, Du divorce, considéré au XIXe siècle, relativement à l’état domestique et à l’état public de société (1801), Paris: Adrien Le Clere3 1818. The motto on the frontispiece reads, “Si le législateur, se trompant dans son objet, établit un principe différent de celui qui naît de la nature des choses, l’État ne cessera d’être agité, jusqu’à ce qu’il soit détruit ou changé, et que l’invincible nature aie repris son empire.” (Contrat social) 174  Ibid., p.260. 175  Stierle, “Die Friedensfeier,” p.486. 176  Honoré de Balzac, “Avant-propos”, in id., La Comédie humaine, ed. Pierre-Georges Castex, vol. 1, Paris: Gallimard (Pléiade) 1976, pp.7–20; here: S. 12. 177  On law in Balzac, see Françoise Gaillard, “Le pas de deux que Balzac fait exécuter au droit positif et à la loi morale, ou Le droit au secours de la morale ou la morale au secours du droit”, L’Année balzacienne 15 (2014), 205–221. 173

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Contrat social. In retrospect, La Nouvelle Héloïse is usually ascribed a dialectical justification function: On the one hand, the incredibly successful novel spread the ideal of a bourgeois-sensitive and patriarchal marriage; on the other hand, the text fuels the desire for the very thing on whose exclusion this ideal is based: the passion of amour-passion. My concern in what follows is now to show that the so-called sensitive-patriarchal thesis on Rousseau’s novel is a line of interpretation that was only able to gain ground after the marital consequences of the Revolution and the Restoration. In a parallel reading of the Contrat social with La Nouvelle Héloïse, on the other hand, I would like to argue that Rousseau’s novel repeats, at the level of marriage, the same aporia that pervades the Contrat social. Both texts ask how a law to which two (or ‘all’) voluntarily submit can be given permanence. In doing so, I subscribe to a deconstructive reading of the text insofar as I do not assume that the political text of the Contrat social can be categorically separated from Rousseau’s novel. Both are fictions, as Paul de Man states.178 Nevertheless, he distinguishes the two texts by their structure of utterance: while he identifies the figure of illegibility as “the allegory of a figure” in the protagonist Julie in La Nouvelle Héloïse, he sees a ‘mere’ allegory (quasi without a ‘figure’) at work in the Contrat social: the figure of the promise, at the centre of which is the justification of language through language itself. The essential speech act of the contrat social consists in the promise “to perform the very illocutionary speech act, which it has discredited”.179 I would like to follow this up by showing that a performative speech act also pervades Rousseau’s novel, not one that aims at (male) ‘self-positing’, but rather one that aims at an ontologisation of the couple that is as problematic as it is inevitable. Julie and Wolmar mirror the instances of the general will and the legislator, which, as Julie’s fatal end shows, can only be conceived together in a hybrid figure. Rousseau makes the marriage question the litmus test of the community. The de Wolmar couple then encodes not primarily a hierarchical gender order, but an overt relation of power (between politics and religion). Without being able or willing to assert a new right of marriage, the couple becomes a sacralized secularism by means of literary fiction; and it is precisely in this that Rousseau’s novel becomes an unavoidable point of reference for all those who write about marriage after him. Ecclesiastical marriage is an institution over which, according to Rousseau, the wrong power holds sway. His theorization of marriage, however, is less a matter of explicit political theory than a pedagogical and aesthetic project, which he pursues in writings such as Emile, La Nouvelle Héloïse, or even the so-called idyll Le Lévite d’Éphraïm.180 The legal relationship between the spouses is not explicitly addressed  Paul de Man, Allegories of Reading. Figural Language in Rousseau, Nietzsche, Rilke, and Proust, New Haven/London: Yale University Press 1979. 179  Ibid., p.275. 180  On marriage in Rousseau, see Judith Frömmer, “Versuchsanordnungen einer ‘petite Société’. Zur Institution der Ehe bei Rousseau”, in: Konstanze Baron, Harald Bluhm (eds.), Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Im Bann der Institutionen, Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter 2016, pp.203–223, elaborating a dialectic of instituting and destituting marriage. On the Lévite d’Éphraïm, see Bernhard Teuber, “Ursprung und Gewalt bei Rousseau,” in Simon Bunke, Katerina Mihaylova, Antonio Roselli (eds.), Rousseaus Welten, Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann 2014, pp.231–263. 178


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in either La Nouvelle Héloïse or Emile.181 Thus, we can assume the paradoxical project of a community of love, to which authors such as Manzoni, Goethe, and also Hugo continue to allude, still modifying it in a revolutionary way. At the same time, the vocabulary of marriage brings a legal binding force to the peculiarly fictional landscape of the novel. Comparable both to the form of the epistolary novel and to his tract-like letters on the oikos of Clarens, it produces a reality effect that raises questions about the aesthetic, social, and political normativity of the novel-­marriage. For reasons of space, I will concentrate on this theme of marriage in my reading of the novel, although Rousseau’s complex direction and multi-perspectival opening of the epistolary novel in particular could in principle also be taken into account as an experiment in political-social representation.182 Rousseau did not write a treatise on marriage, nor did he explicitly claim that it was a necessary condition of society. Even the statement in the Lettre à d’Alembert (1758), which seemed to indicat this, is presented as a speculation: “L’homme et la femme ont été formés l’un pour l’autre. Dieu veut qu’ils suivent leur destination, et certainement [italics. D.S.] le premier et le plus saint de tous les liens de la Société est le mariage.” (“Man and woman were formed for each other. God wants them to follow their destination, and certainly the first and holiest of all the bonds of society is marriage.”)183 And the Savoyard vicar in Emile only states the age and sanctity of marriage in order to be able to derive from it himself a right of renunciation in favor of a greater naturalness: “Dès ma jeunesse j’ai respecté le mariage comme la premiére et la plus sainte institution de la nature. M’étant ôté le droit de m’y soumettre, je résolus de ne le point profaner”. (“From my youth I have respected marriage as the first and most holy institution of nature. Having taken away the right to submit to it, I resolved not to profane it”).184 Theoretically, marriage remains a footnote, so to speak, to the enlightened polity, but in it, at least as far as La Nouvelle Héloïse is concerned, there are decisive

 Cf. Friederike Kuster, Rousseau. Die Konstitution des Privaten. Zur Genese der bürgerlichen Familie, Berlin: Akademie-Verlag 2005, p.134. 182  Cf. Wolfgang Matzat, Discursgeschichte der Leidenschaft. Zur Affektmodellierung im französischen Roman von Rousseau bis Balzac, Tübingen: Narr 1990, esp. pp.51–60, which I follow in locating Rousseau’s novel before the ‘bourgeois’ threshold in terms of discourse history. However, while Matzat outlines the negative, moralistic conception of affect as the main obstacle to a love bond, I am primarily concerned with the politicization and functionalization of the couple for the community. 183  Rousseau, “Lettre à d’Alembert,” vol. 5, pp.1–125; here: P. 116. Rousseau is quoted according to the Pléiade edition: Œuvres complètes, ed. Bernard Gagnebin, Marcel Raymond, 5 vols, Paris: Gallimard 1959 ff; Julie ou La Nouvelle Héloïse. Lettres de deux amans, habitans d’une petite ville au pied des Alpes (vol. 2, pp.1–793) with the sigle NH and book, letter and page references; Du contrat social, ou principes du droit politiques (vol. 3, pp.347–470) with the sigle CS and book, chapter and page references in the continuous text. 184  Rousseau, Emile ou De l’éducation, in: Œuvres complètes, ed. Gagnebin/Raymond, vol. 4, pp.239–924; here: S. 566. 181

2.3  Two or Many: Rousseau Between Social andMarriage Contract


hints.185 This is most evident in the Contrat social, published in 1762, which, without mentioning marriage, begins with a review of the first natural families, only to end at the very end with a footnote on the topic.186 Civic religion, as Rousseau outlines it in the final chapter, must necessarily be intolerant of any other religion that has ‘civic effects’ (‘effets civils’). The footnote in this context– the very last of the treatise– then refers to the example of marriage legislation, which no state can do without: “Le mariage, par exemple, étant un contrat civil, a des effets civils sans lesquels il est même impossible que la société subsiste.” (“Marriage, for example, being a civil contract, has civil effects without which it is impossible for society to exist”) (CS, IV, 8, 469) Any clergy with a right to marry already has the citizens on its side, for, the author asks rhetorically: Maître de marier ou de ne pas marier les gens selon qu’ils auront ou n’auront pas telle ou telle doctrine, selon qu’ils admettront ou rejetteront tel ou tel formulaire, selon qu’ils lui seront plus ou moins dévoués, en se conduisant prudemment et tenant ferme, n’est il pas clair qu’il disposera seul des héritages, des charges, des Citoyens, de l’Etat même, qui ne sauroit subsister n’étant plus composé que des bâtards? (CS, IV, 8, 469)187

He who holds the right to marry decides who is a citizen and who is a bastard of the community. With this question, Rousseau openly criticizes the policy of the French king, who recognizes the canonical right to marry in principle. Any state that begins to negotiate marriage rights with the clergy has already lost, even if it succeeds in obtaining partial or exceptional rights for itself: “Ce n’est pas, ce me semble, un grand sacrifice d’abandonner une partie quand on est sûr de s’emparer du tout.” (“It is not, it seems to me, a great sacrifice to abandon a part when one is sure to seize the whole”) (CS, IV, 8, 469) Marriage may be irrelevant to the constitution of the state, but its survival depends on it: marriage law is necessary for the preservation of the state. Bad marriage laws, Rousseau states in the fifth book of Emile, are a symptom of the decay of the state.188  Marital crisis and Enlightenment mark a relationship in which it is worthwhile to relate footnote and main text to one another. The great phrase “What is Enlightenment?” reminds Michael Taylor, goes back to a footnote in Johann Friedrich Zöllner’s 1783 text in the Berlinische Monatsschrift, “Is it advisable not to further sanction the marriage alliance by religion?” (Taylor, “‘Was heißt Aufklärung?’ Eine Fußnote zur Ehekrise,” p.51.) 186  Hermann Conrad did not miss the footnote. By demanding that “marriage, as a civil contract, be subordinated solely to the authority of the state,” Rousseau was, as it were, taking the final step toward the secularization of marriage. (Conrad, “Die Grundlegung der modernen Zivilehe durch die französische Revolution,” p.351.) 187  “Master of marrying or not marrying people according to whether they will or will not have this or that doctrine, according to whether they will admit or reject this or that form, according to whether they will be more or less devoted to him, by behaving prudently and holding firm, is it not clear that he alone will dispose of the inheritances, of the offices, of the Citizens, of the State itself, which would not be able to subsist, being composed only of bastards?” 188  Cf. Rousseau, Emile, in: Œuvres complètes, ed. Gagnebin/Raymond, vol. 4, p. 851: “Quand Auguste porta des loix contre le célibat, ces lois montroient déja le déclin de l’empire Romain. Il faut que la bonté du gouvernement porte les citoyens à se marier et non pas que la loi les y contraigne”. 185


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With the footnote at the end of the Contrat social, Rousseau returns in principle to its beginning, where the pre-legal, quasi-natural family unions on the threshold of man’s settling down are cited as the original form of political communities: “La famille est donc si l’on veut le premier modéle des sociétés publiques” (“The family is therefore, if you like, the first model of public societies”) (CS I, 2, 352). Significantly, however, the reference here is not to marriage, to ‘amour conjugal’, but to the family and ‘amour paternel’. The patriarchal family serves Rousseau– against natural law scholars such as Hobbes and Grotius– as evidence of a voluntary dependence into which women and children would have placed themselves for the benefit of survival. The father provides for his wife and children, who repay him for his care with an affectionate love. This reproductive bond is held together by the children, whose entry into adulthood consequently brings it to an end. What this means for the relationship between man and woman remains undiscussed (at least here); in the subsequent chapters of the Contrat social neither women nor the ‘contrat civil’ of marriage play a role. The ‘pacte social’ presupposes a community of men; it makes citizens out of men, not women. This has led to talk– especially with the Rousseau of Emile – of a complementary conception of gender that effectively excludes women from the republic Rousseau projected. In fact, however, it is much more likely to assume a deconstructive-differential and ultimately unsustainable gender relation.189 Rousseau takes the family, not marriage, as his starting point, presupposing on the one hand a natural right of the father, and on the other hand struggling with the problem that the family bond is only of limited duration. He deviates from an enlightened, natural law conception of marriage insofar as he does not put the indissolubility of the marriage bond up for discussion. Marriage is not a contract, the substantive elements of which the nupturants are free to dispose of; it is merely established by a contract and then constitutes a ‘civil-religious’ and indissoluble bond. On this point his view also diverges flagrantly from the revolutionary marriage legislation, according to which marriage is essentially a contract, and consequently can be as freely established as freely dissolved. In view of the parallel origins of the Contrat social, La Nouvelle Héloïse, and Emile, it seems reasonable to assume that the texts are united by the problem of formation and preservation, which is reflected in marriage law in the pair of concepts of contract and (‘sacramental’) obligation.190 What appears in the Contrat social as a philosophical, theoretical problem of mediation between the general will and the legislator is revealed in Rousseau’s novel as a problem of gender theory.

 Cf. Barbara Vinken, “Alle Menschen werden Brüder. Republik, Rhetorik, Differenz der Geschlechter”, Lendemains 71/72 (1993), 112–124. 190  Cf. Rousseau’s own reference to the context of the problem and its origin in the ninth book of the Confessions, in Rousseau, Œuvres complètes, ed. Gagnebin/Raymond, vol. 1, pp.1–656; here: P. 409. Francine Markovits, “Rousseau et l’éthique de Clarens: une économie des relations humaines,” Stanford French Review 15 (1991), 323–348, also takes this context as the starting point for her reflections. 189

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Julie astheGeneral Will Personified La Nouvelle Héloïse is a novel divided into two parts. The marriage at the end of the third of the six books marks the middle– and one immediately wonders: the turning point? the climax?– of the novel. What kind of law does the fictional novel create? And how does it differ from that of Rousseau’s contractual fiction Du contrat social, which, according to its subtitle, deals with the “principes du droit politique” (“principles of political law”)? The tutor Saint-Preux and his pupil Julie fall in love. Marriage is ruled out for reasons of class difference; moreover, the Baron d’Etange has already promised his daughter to his old friend M. de Wolmar. Julie tries to create precedents herself and to enforce a marriage with Saint-Preux against paternal law by fathering a child with her lover. She does not reckon with the fact that her father, after learning of the love affair, beats her so severly that she loses the child. She regrets the mistake, the ‘crime’ against her father more and more and, when the death of her mother compounds her guilt, she agrees to marry Wolmar. Thus the Clarens household and married state is born, described above all by Saint-Preux as an exemplary, economically self-sufficient, ‘whole’ house. It is ended by an accident: the rescue of her son, who has fallen into the water, has fatal consequences for Julie. Her suicide note, in which she professes her continuing love for Saint-Preux, calls into question all the foundations of her marriage to Wolmar. The novel is open-­ ended in that it is left to the reader to see in this marital experiment either a successful or failed justification of the community. This openness connects the novel with the Contrat social, whose reception is likewise caught between democratic merit and totalitarian prescience.191 The contradiction is condensed in the question of how Rousseau’s construction of the general will is to be thought together with the figure of the legislator.192 How can a single person be the legislator of a community based on the freedom and equality of all? Walter Mesch argues that the fundamental problem of mediation can only be solved if one understands Rousseau’s general will as a dynamic entity whose evaluation depends entirely on whether one focuses on its presuppositions or on its outcome.193 Unlike Kant, who can formulate a universal, presuppositionless maxim of action in terms of moral philosophy, Rousseau’s political model of self-­ commitment depends decisively on an initial situation that must be characterized by  As a representative example, here only the reference to Reinhart Koselleck, who systematically brings the virulence of the ‘crisis’– sovereignty as “permanent revolution” and “permanent dictatorship”– to bear on Rousseau (Reinhart Koselleck, Kritik und Krise, Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp 1973 (1959), pp.132–144). 192  Cf. on this Walter Mesch, “Vorne Kant und hinten Platon? Gemeinwille und Gesetzgeber in Rousseaus Du contrat social”, Zeitschrift für philosophische Forschung 53 (1999), 355–382. In addition, the state and constitutional profiling of the Contrat social in Hasso Hofmann, “Rousseaus Gesetzgeber oder: Rousseau in der europäischen Verfassungsgeschichte”, in: Jakob Nolte, Ralf Poscher, Henner Wolter (eds.), Die Verfassung als Aufgabe von Wissenschaft, Praxis und Öffentlichkeit. Freundesgabe für Bernhard Schlink zum 70. Geburtstag, Heidelberg et al.: C.F.Müller 2014, pp.99–109. 193  Mesch, “Vorne Kant und hinten Platon”, p.364f. 191


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equal interests as well as economic and social equality.194 The general will appears anti-liberal and worthy of criticism from its identificatory and collectivist result, whereas in the constitution of a de facto general will, Rousseau had been primarily concerned with restriction– by a legislator.195 The original founding act of the complete divestment of everyone from each other– “l’aliénation totale de chaque associé avec tous ses droits à toute la communauté” (“the total alienation of each partner with all his rights to the whole community”) (CS, I, 6, 360) – is therefore to be understood conceptually, but not practically original. It frames a formal, purely conceptual act of union, independent of any material aim and it is only in interaction with the legislator that this abstract union becomes a de facto general will. The formal submission of each to all operates on the principle according to which the whole– the general will– is more than the sum of the individual wills. The individual gives his person and receives a body: “Chacun de nous met en commun sa personne et toute sa puissance sous la suprême direction de la volonté générale; et nous recevons en corps chaque membre comme partie indivisible du tout.” (“Each of us puts his person and all his power in common under the supreme direction of the general will; and we receive each member as an indivisible part of the whole”) (CS, I, 6, 361) But it is only in the interaction with the legislator that the ‘moral and collective body’ (‘corps moral et collectif’) created in the abstract act of association becomes a political body (‘corps politique’). Rousseau thus transfers the central theme of the relation of will and reason from the individual to the political body. According to Helmut Pfeiffer, the ‘corps moral et collectif’ needs the legislator as a “supplementary instance” that corrects the asymmetry of will and reason, intention and judgment.196 Unlike Jean Bodin’s sovereign, who stands outside the laws and derives his legitimacy to rule from them, Rousseau’s legislator has the paradoxical role of an outsider within. He confers the power of law on a polity that exists independently of him. Rousseau describes his office with the famous pun: “Cet emploi, qui constitue la république, n’entre point dans sa constitution.” (“This job, which constitutes the republic, is not part of its constitution”) (CS, II, 7, 382) The legislator does not rule, but administers an inalienable right of the people: “Celui qui rédige les lois n’a donc ou ne doit avoir aucun droit législatif, et le peuple même ne peut, quand il voudroit, se dépouiller de ce droit incommunicable.” (“He who writes the laws has therefore or must have no legislative right, and the people themselves cannot, when they wish, divest themselves of this incommunicable right”) (CS, II, 7, 383) It is responsible for the formation, control, and maintenance of those laws whose content the people theoretically know but in fact usually misunderstand. With Walter Benjamin’s distinction from the Critique of Violence, one can say that  A distorted, unjust variant of the social contract is thus the contract of subjugation described in Discours sur l’origine et les fondements de l’inégalité parmi les hommes (1755), with which the rich justify their despotic rule. 195  Cf. Mesch, “Vorne Kant und hinten Platon”, p.365. 196  Helmut Pfeiffer, “Radikale Politik. Rousseau und die Aporien der Aufklärung”, in Richard Faber, Brunhilde Wehinger (eds.), Aufklärung in Geschichte und Gegenwart, Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann 2010, pp.137–156; here: S. 153f. 194

2.3  Two or Many: Rousseau Between Social andMarriage Contract


the Rousseauian legislator does not have law-making powers, but only law-­ preserving powers, which nevertheless never detach themselves from the law-­ making authority. In ever new attempts, his task is described in paradoxical turns: He formulates laws that existed before him; he persuades without persuading; he educates the people into people they were before he began his educating. He transforms the people with a right he does not have: Celui qui ose entreprendre d’instituer un peuple doit se sentir en état de changer, pour ainsi dire, la nature humaine; de transform chaque individu, qui par lui-même est un tout parfait et solitaire, en partie d’un plus grand tout dont cet individu reçoive en quelque sorte sa vie et son être; d’altérer la constitution de l’homme pour la renforcer; de substituer une existence partielle et morale à l’existence physique et indépendante que nous avons tous reçue de la nature.197 (CS, II, 7, 381)

This legislator, who is to (re)transform erring individual wills and publics into a good general will based on equality and freedom, presupposes divinatory abilities in addition to knowledge, oratory and pedagogy: “La grande âme du Législateur est le vrai miracle qui doit prouver sa mission” (“The great soul of the Legislator is the true miracle that must prove his mission”). (CS, II, 6, 384) In accordance with the sovereign people, the legislator also writes down those articles of faith, those ‘profession de foi’, into which Rousseau’s treatise flows– just as Wolmar writes down Julie’s ‘profession de foi’ (‘profession of faith’) at the end of the novel (though without any metamorphosis!) in his letter to Saint-Preux. State-foundation presupposes a (natural) religion in the form of ‘sentimens de sociabilité’ (‘feelings of sociability’) (CS, IV, 8, 468) for the guarantee of the correctness of the general will.198 Researchers have already pointed out on several occasions that Rousseau’s Wolmar displays features of the legislator from the Contrat social,199 and Julie’s

 “He who dares to undertake the institution of a people must feel that he is in a position to change, so to speak, human nature; to transform each individual, who by himself is a perfect and solitary whole, into a part of a greater whole from which this individual in some way receives his life and his being; to alter the constitution of man in order to strengthen it; to substitute a partial and moral existence for the physical and independent existence that we have all received from nature.” 198  In the chapter “De la loi” it says: “La volonté générale est toujours droite, mais le jugement qui la guide n’est pas toujours éclairé.” (CS, II, 6, 380)– On the circumlocution and hopelessness of Rousseau’s natural religion, see also Helmut Pfeiffer, “Der Skandal der natürlichen Religion,” in Andreas Gelz, Dietmar Hüser, Sabine Ruß-Sattar (eds.), Skandale zwischen Moderne und Postmoderne. Interdisziplinäre Perspektiven auf Formen gesellschaftlicher Transgression, Berlin/ Boston: De Gruyter 2014, pp.21–56. 199  Cf. for instance Stephan Leopold, Liebe im Ancien Régime. Eros und Polis von Corneille bis Sade, Paderborn: Fink 2014, p.366, who, however, simply assumes that the figure of the legislator already in the Contrat social “brings down the entire theory of contract”. 197


2  Marriage Around 1800: Between Contract andSacrament

marriage has also already been associated with the concept of the general will.200 In the following passage, I will show how the fiction novel of Wolmar and Julie modifies the categorical difference between the legislator and the general will in such a way that the chimerical contract fiction of the Contrat social is supplemented by a novelistically enhanced marriage fiction, so to speak. The conditions for Julie’s marriage are conceivably bad: Julie loves Saint-Preux and not Wolmar. Until the end of the first of the six books, she tries to impose her order of love against the paternal order of violence, which she will succeed in doing when she marries in the third book– though not in the way she had planned. The love to which she confesses in her letters to Saint-Preux is accompanied from the beginning by feelings of guilt. Her love is amour-passion; her confession of love, like that of Racine’s Phèdre, is an “aveu fatal” (“fatal confession”) that threatens to destroy the family (cf. NH, I, IV). With her strategy of creating precedents using a child, she risks her life, as she explains to Saint-Preux in her great recapitulatory letter written two months after the marriage: ‘Je savois que mon pere me donneroit la mort ou mon amant’ (‘I knew that my father would give me death or my lover’) (NH, III, XVIII, 445). She thus relies first on the paternal right over life and death rather than consensus, on the father’s grace rather than his consent. An illegitimate child is worse than a mésalliance, and the probability of attaining her end in this manner is not small. But the text does not allow this situation of decision to occur; even before the pregnancy becomes apparent and before the Baron d’Etange learns of it, he punishes his daughter for her forbidden love affair so brutally that she loses the child (cf. NH, I, LXIII, 178). The father’s violent outburst not only prevents premarital motherhood; more significantly, it brings about a profound change in Julie that already foreshadows her ‘révolution subite’ during her marriage to Wolmar: “Je ne puis bien te dire,” (“I can’t tell you”) she writes to Claire, “quelle révolution s’est faite en moi, mais depuis ce moment je me trouve changée.” (“what revolution has taken place in me, but since that moment, I find myself changed”) (NH, I, LXIII, 177) What this drives is the recasting of an amour-passion whose reason remains elusive.201 From this moment on, Julie slowly shifts from the strategy of confrontation to a paradoxical strategy of consensus, which aims at not being unfaithful to either her beloved or her father. In the eleventh letter of the second book, she summarizes this strategy to Saint-Preux by saying, “Je ne t’épouserai jamais sans le consentement de mon pere;  Cf. e.g. For example, Guillemette Johnston, Lectures poétiques. La Représentation poétique du discours théorique de Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Birmingham (Alabama): Summa Publications, Inc. 1996, esp. pp.99–117. She traces Julie’s function as a whole against the background of Girard’s scapegoat model. Also Roland Galle, Geständnis und Subjektivität. Untersuchungen zum französischen Roman zwischen Klassik und Romantik, Munich: Fink 1986, refers several times to the parallel with the social contract in Julie’s conversion. – His subject-theoretical reading of Rousseau’s novel, in which he arrives at a dialectic of confession and prohibition of confession that is constitutive of the modern subject, can certainly be applied to the discourse of community. 201  Significantly, the passion for love between Saint-Preux and Julie is already ignited by the absent, by the shared reading of texts– especially French, classical-moralist texts. This is emphasized by Judith Frömmer, Vaterfiktionen. Empfindsamkeit und Patriarchat in der Literatur der Aufklärung, Munich: Fink 2008, pp.201–209. 200

2.3  Two or Many: Rousseau Between Social andMarriage Contract


mais je n’en épouserai jamais un autre sans ton consentement.” (“I will never marry you without my father’s consent; but I will never marry another without your consent.”) (NH, II, XI, 226) The latter still sees the matter differently at this point; he claims a natural right of marriage, in view of their de facto carnal union.202 According to Saint-Preux, The physical union between him and his beloved sanctions a ‘sacred bond’. He therefore exhorts Julie not to regret the loss of her virginity: vois d’un œil moins prévenu les sacrés liens que ton cœur a formés. N’as-tu pas suivi les plus pures loix de la nature? N’as-tu pas librement contracté le plus saint des engagemens? Qu’as-tu fait que les loix divines et humaines ne puissent et ne doivent autoriser? Que manque-t-il au nœud qui nous joint qu’une déclaration publique? Veuille être à moi, tu n’es plus coupable. O mon épouse!203 (NH, I, XXXI, 100 f.)

With the sexual act, Julie has become his wife. Julie herself also thinks along these lines, since her premarital sexual intercourse takes place just after she learns that her father wants to marry her off to Wolmar. The lovers are supported in this view above all by their friend Lord Édouard, who claims a natural right to a marriage of love. Together with Saint-Preux on their way to Paris, he writes Claire a letter demanding this right in the following words: Ces deux belles âmes sortirent l’une pour l’autre des mains de la nature; c’est dans une douce union, c’est dans le sein du bonheur que, libres de déployer leurs forces et d’exercer leurs vertus, elles eussent éclairé la terre de leurs exemples. Pourquoi faut-il qu’un insensé préjugé vienne changer les directions éternelles, et bouleverser l’harmonie des êtres pensans? Pourquoi la vanité d’un pere barbare cache-t-elle ainsi la lumiere sous le boisseau, et fait-elle gémir dans les larmes des cœurs tendres et bienfaisans nés pour essuyer celles d’autrui? Le lien conjugal n’est-il pas le plus libre ainsi que le plus sacré des engagemens? Oui, toutes les lois qui le gênent sont injustes; tous les peres qui l’osent former ou rompre sont des tirans. Ce chaste nœud de la nature n’est soumis ni au pouvoir souverain ni à l’autorité paternelle, mais à la seule autorité du pere commun qui sait commander aux cœurs, et qui leur ordonnant de s’unir, les peut contraindre à s’aimer.204 (NH, II, II, 193 f.)

202   Cf. on this natural law of marriage also the remarks by Anneliese Botond, Die Wahlverwandtschaften. Transformation und Kritik der neuen Héloïse, Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann 2006, p.21ff. 203  “see with a less prejudiced eye the sacred bonds that your heart has formed. Did you not follow the purest laws of nature? Have you not freely contracted the most holy of commitments? What have you done that divine and human laws cannot and must not authorize? What is missing from the knot that binds us together but a public declaration? May you be mine, you are no longer guilty. O my wife!” 204  “These two beautiful souls came out for each other from the hands of nature; it is in a sweet union, it is in the bosom of happiness that, free to deploy their forces and to exercise their virtues, they would have enlightened the earth with their examples. Why should a foolish prejudice change the eternal directions, and upset the harmony of thinking beings? Why does the vanity of a barbarous father hide the light under a bushel, and make tender and beneficent hearts, born to wipe away the tears of others, wail in tears? Is not the conjugal bond the freest and most sacred of commitments? Yes, all the laws that hinder it are unjust; all the fathers who dare to form or break it are traitors. This chaste knot of nature is subject neither to sovereign power nor to paternal authority, but to the sole authority of the common father who knows how to command hearts, and who, ordering them to unite, can compel them to love one another.”


2  Marriage Around 1800: Between Contract andSacrament

Lord Édouard can hardly bear the suffering of his friend, who is already thinking of suicide, and demands the redemption of the unhappy couple with a free love union. This is reason why he subsequently offers Julie to flee to England with her beloved for the sake of marital happiness. What is striking in his ‘natural marriage plea’ is the use of biblical and sacralizing vocabulary. Marriage here is not ‘holy’ and ‘chaste’ because– as according to common Christian thought– it represents the union of Christ with his Church,205 but because it is without coercion, natural, free and just. The pater familias who, on the other hand, brings up the matter of conventual marriage, is accused of unchristianity: He is like those who, according to Matthew 5:15, put the light (and right) of marriage under a bushel and withhold it from the general public. In a footnote, the novel’s narrator agrees wholeheartedly with Saint-Preux’s critique of convensial marriage. This leads to even the happiest marriages being prevented and dissolved. He refers to a spectacular legal case at the Parlement de Paris: J’ai vu plaider au Parlement de Paris une cause célebre où l’honneur du rang attaquoit insolemment et publiquement l’honnêteté, le devoir, la foi conjugale, et où l’indigne pere qui gagna son procès, osa deshériter son fils pour n’avoir pas voulu être un malhonnête homme.206 (NH, II, II, 194)

Bernard Guyon remaks on this footnote that Rousseau is alluding to the case of the Parisian lawyer Labédoyère here, whose marriage to the actress Agathe Sticotti was challenged by his father and subsequently declared invalid. The affair made waves, the writer Baculard d’Arnaud scandalized the case in a novel titled Époux malheureux, and the story ended in 1758 with a reconciliation between father and son, though Rousseau apparently did not know this at the time. The Paris censors deleted the quoted passage from the novel’s footnote, which Rousseau in turn protested. What seems most interesting, however, is the consequence the narrator draws from the case in the footnote: Unlike Lord Édouard, he has less the men or the couple in mind than the women: “On ne sauroit dire à quel point dans ce pays si galand les femmes sont tirannisées par les loix. Faut-il s’étonner qu’elles s’en vengent si cruellement par leurs mœurs?” (“It is impossible to say to what extent women in such a gallant country are oppressed by the law. Is it any wonder that they are so cruelly avenged by their morals?”) (NH, II, II, 194) The patriarchal law of marriage becomes the reason for the moral decline of (French) women for him, but not of men. In his remarks, Édouard does not touch on the question of the duration and indissolubility of the natural bond of love at all. He rapturously praises the Duchy

 Cf. e.g. E.g. Bossuet in his “Catéchisme de Meaux” (1687): “Quelle est la perfection du Mariage? C’est que le Mari représente Jesus-Christ l’Epoux de l’Eglise, & que la Femme représente l’Eglise Epouse de Jesus-Christ.” (in: Œuvres de Messire Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet, vol. 2, Paris: Coignard, Boudet 1747, pp.427–770; here: S. 719. 206  “I have seen a famous case pleaded in the Parliament of Paris where the honor of rank insolently and publicly attacked honesty, duty, and conjugal faith, and where the unworthy father who won his case dared to disinherit his son for not having wanted to be a dishonest man” 205

2.3  Two or Many: Rousseau Between Social andMarriage Contract


of York as an “asile de l’innocence” (“asylum of innocence”) for lovers.207 In the end, he is unable to convince Julie, and she rejects Édouard’s offer. But why, really? It is a beautiful offer for the love of two individuals (“amour”), she writes to him in her reply, but not one for her– and everyone’s– happiness (“félicité”; cf. NH II, VI, 263). She counters the violent experience of the passion of love and the violence of the father– amour-passion and amour paternel are blurred here, as terrible as that is – with a universalizing striving for happiness. Her paradoxical consentement strategy is expansive and aims at the equalization of interests. This is also evident in the novel’s secondary characters: in the first part of the novel, there is still marriage; in the second, there are only marriage plans. These marriages come about thanks to Julie. Thus, she supports the penniless Fanchon Regard in her plan to marry her equally penniless friend Claude Anet.208 Moreover, her decision not to go to England contributes to the marriage of Claire, who would have fled with her in case of doubt and renounced her marriage to M. d’Orbe.209 In the second part, this no longer works out: on the Clarens estate, after Julie and Wolmar’s wedding, they apparently no longer210 get married; only harvest festivities, take place here; no wedding festivities. On the level of the main characters, of course, Claire and Saint-Preux exemplify this; despite Julie’s efforts, they do not want to marry. But still in far-off Italy, the mésalliance of Édouard and Laure must be prevented by Clarens. And the marriage of Fanchon and Claude, concluded in the first volume, goes down the drain because the husband cannot bear the little family happiness, runs away, and abandons Fanchon with their child (cf. NH, IV, X, 63). Fanchon becomes Julie’s faithful maid. The unfaithful, derelict Anet reappears at Julie’s deathbed, of all places– like the prodigal son for whom the father is preparing a feast. Julie, however, can no longer absolve the remorseful man of his guilt because of another choking fit, so it remains extremely doubtful whether this (servant) marriage will be reconciled or not, especially in view of Claire’s and Saint-Preux’s ‘rather not’. But let us return to Julie’s strategy in the first part of the novel: the utopia of a couple relationship based on ‘amour’ and ‘innocence’ proposed by Lord Édouard is replaced by a commitment (still based on ‘amour’ and ‘innocence’) to a common good that extends beyond the family. This is what Julie tries to teach the jealous Saint-Preux:  Cf. NH, II, III, 200: “Là vous pourrez aussi-tôt vous marier publiquement sans obstacle; car parmi nous une fille nubile n’a nul besoin du consentement d’autrui pour disposer d’elle-même.” That English marriage also involves some inconveniences he sweeps under the table with the following sentence: “Nos sages lois n’abrogent point celles de la nature, et s’il résulte de cet heureux accord quelques inconvénients, ils sont beaucoup moindres que ceux qu’il prévient.” 208  Julie explicitly interprets her action as matchmaker as reparation for her debt of love: “Pour moi, j’ai résolu de reparer envers ceux-ci ma faute à quelque prix que ce soit, et de faire en sorte que ces deux jeunes gens soient unis par le mariage.” (NH, I, XXXIX, 118) The marriage of Fanchon and Claudet in turn sanctions Julie’s love for Saint-Preux, and Julie uses it to meet her lover in secret. 209  Cf. NH, II, V, 206, where Claire writes: “J’abandonne un mariage prêt à conclurre?” 210  Fanchon and Claude’s wedding is to take place at Clarens, but due to the weather it is moved to the city, so Julie and Saint-Preux have to concoct another strategy for their clandestine meeting (cf. NH, I, LIII, 144–146). 207


2  Marriage Around 1800: Between Contract andSacrament C’est que la source du bonheur n’est toute entiere dans l’objet désiré ni dans le cœur qui le possede, mais dans le rapport de l’un et de l’autre, et que, comme tous les objets de nos desirs ne sont pas propres à produire la félicité, tous les états du cœur ne sont pas propres à la sentir.211 (NH, II, XI, 225)

Their love becomes platonic, as the novelist states approvingly in a footnote; it is no longer about an intimate couple relationship, but about a universal-sublime love, about virtue, happiness and beauty. And so this letter ends with Julie’s announcement, already quoted above, that she will only marry on the condition of a double or triple consensus from her father, Saint-Preux, and Wolmar. By the time of the news of her mother’s death (at the beginning of the third book), Saint-Preux and Julie have switched roles; Julie becomes her teacher’s teacher, especially after he confesses to her that he has been a victim of female seduction in Paris. In her reply, she admonishes her lover – “Le sage observe le desordre public” (“The wise man observes public disorder”) (NH, II, XXVII, 301) – and in this she anticipates Wolmar’s cardinal trait of observation, so central to the exercise of dominion in Clarens. Julie dominates Saint-Preux at this moment, governing him by exhorting him to act rationally, and that means politically. She complains to Édouard in the postscript of the same letter; he writes sensible things, about “sujets importans,” “de réflexions graves et judicieuses” (“important subjects,” “of serious and judicious thoughts”) (NH, II, XXVII, 305), while to her he only indulges in his unfortunate loves. Even if, as a woman, she was not born for politics (“la politique”), he might still let her participate in the political (and her example is questions of “gouvernement”). As unstable and transitory as this self-restraint is, Julie moves towards the kairos of her wedding in the sign of a sincerity (‘sincérité’) that benefits as many as possible and for which she is the final authority. In accordance with the promise of fidelity she has already made, she asks for a right to freedom from Saint-Preux which her father wants to posess but cannot: ‘Rendez-moi donc la liberté que je vous ai engagée, et dont mon pere veut disposer’ (‘Give me back the freedom that I committed to you, and that my father wants to dispose of’) (NH, III, IX, 325). The short billet she writes to Saint-Preux is the result of her final confrontation with her father and, as she writes retrospectively in her great marriage letter, proof that she was able to preserve her will and her power of words towards him. By referring to the promise made to Saint-Preux not to marry without his consent, she had gained the father’s goodwill and, what’s more, that he believed in her words as if they were sacred words: “tant un Gentilhomme plein d’honneur a naturellement une haute idée de la foi des engagemens, et regarde la parole comme une chose toujours sacrée!” (NH, III, XVIII, 350) Saint-Preux, in turn, responds to Julie by granting her a right to self-determination that involves himself ‘heart-wise’: “Je rends Julie d’Etange le droit de disposer d’elle-même, et de donner sa main sans consulter son cœur.” (“I give Julie d’Etange the right to dispose of herself, and to give her hand without consulting her heart”) (NH, III, XI, 327).  “It is that the source of happiness is not entirely in the object desired nor in the heart which possesses it, but in the relation of the one to the other, and that, just as not all the objects of our desires are suitable for producing happiness, not all the states of the heart are suitable for feeling it.” 211

2.3  Two or Many: Rousseau Between Social andMarriage Contract


In this logic, the act of marriage marks the dissolution of individual wills in the formation of a social contract, the problem of which Rousseau describes in the Contrat social as follows: “Trouver une forme d’association qui défende et protege de toute la force commune la personne et les biens de chaque associé, et par laquelle chacun s’unissant à tous n’obéisse pourtant qu’à lui-même et reste aussi libre qu’auparavant” (“To find a form of association which defends and protects with all the common force the person and the goods of each associate, and by which each one uniting with all nevertheless obeys only himself and remains as free as before”). (CS, I, VI, 360) The novel now eliminates the problem by having the act of marriage and the act of conversion coincide in Julie’s account. This is revealing in that the act of union– the self-submission of each to all– is not presented in the Contrat social as a mythico-religious moment at all, but simply as a theoretical, rational-utilitarian contractual fiction, a ‘pacte social’. Rather, it is the legislator who is associated with religion and presented as a mythical founding father on Lykurg’s model, whereas the ‘legislator’ of Clarens, Wolmar, is curiously supposed to be an atheist. Although the lawgiver is ascribe a transformative capacity in the Contrat social– ‘[il] doit se sentir en état de changer, pour ainsi dire, la nature humaine’ (CS, II, VII, 381)– in La Nouvelle Héloïse, Julie is the transformative centre who captivates everyone. Her conversion is imitated by all (rightly or wrongly), her will becomes the will (more or less good) of all, to which (apparently) all submit, which (apparently) all believe, and from which (apparently) all benefit. Quasi in accordance with the definition of the Contrat social, Julie realizes– in the double sense of ‘perceive’ and ‘realize’212– the “aliénation totale de chaque associé avec tous ses droits à toute la communauté” (“total alienation of each partner with all his rights to the whole community”) (CS, I, VI, 360). She interprets her marriage ceremony retrospectively as a fiction of that “corps moral et collectif” (“moral and collective body”) (CS, I, VI, 52) which becomes an indivisible unity in the (speech) act of its union: “Chacun de nous met en commun sa personne et toute sa puissance sous la suprême direction de la volonté générale; et nous recevons en corps chaque membre comme partie indivisible du tout.” (“Each of us puts his person and all his power in common under the supreme direction of the general will; and we receive each member as an indivisible part of the whole.”) (CS, I, VI, 51f.) Julie herself is the sovereign agent of representation and interpretation of this miraculous marriage, which she recounts in the overlong recapitulatory letter to the person she still (and increasingly) loves, and which is less about the exchange of a marriage consensus between bride and groom than about Julie’s ‘marital’ realignment. The marriage takes place in church before a minister, but this is only essential because it allows Julie to feel a public power of the ritual of the liturgy (‘un air de solennité’, ‘la sainte liturgie’), which becomes the trigger for her wholly interior experience of ‘révolution subite’ (III, XVIII, 422). What imperatively dawns on her at this moment is the temporal and spatial-personal totality of the connection she has entered into:

 On the double meaning of the term ‘realization’ borrowed from Charles Taylor and its shift towards the “action side”, cf. Pfeiffer, “Der Skandal der natürlichen Religion”, p.26. 212


2  Marriage Around 1800: Between Contract andSacrament J’envisagai le saint nœud que j’allois former comme un nouvel état qui devoit purifier mon ame et la rendre à tous ses devoirs. Quand le Pasteur me demanda si je promettois obéissance et fidélité parfaitte à celui que j’acceptois pour époux, ma bouche et mon cœur le promirent. Je le tiendrai jusqu’à la mort.213 (NH, III, XVIII, 354)

The short, decisive passage is designed to transfer the question of whom Julie is actually marrying into the undecidable, with the addressee’s malicious paraphrasing as “celui que j’acceptois pour époux” (“the one I accepted as my husband”). God, her father, Wolmar, Saint-Preux, or all– men, perhaps even women … whomever, The marital estate of Clarens, as described in the fourth book, will draw all its political and economic cohesive power from the union Julie pronounces here.214 Fidelity and openness are the characteristics that Julie emphasizes theoretically in the consensus of two spouses, factually-experientially only in her own. The closed bond is sacred not because it ‘sacramentally’ represents or refers to the bond between Christ and the faithful– indeed, at no point in the novel is Julie’s marriage referred to as a sacrament.215 Nor is it sacred in the sense of the ‘philosophes’, because it would be original, natural and free. It is sacred, quite anthropocentrically, collectivistically, because it involves all of humanity and always presupposes the silent consensus of all. “Chaque fois que deux époux s’unissent par un nœud solemnel” (“Whenever two spouses join in a solemn knot”), explains Julie Saint-Preux: il intervient un engagement tacite de tout le genre humain de respecter ce lien sacré, d’honorer en eux l’union conjugale; et c’est, ce me semble, une raison très forte contre les

 “I considered the holy knot I was about to form as a new state that would purify my soul and make it fit for all its duties. When the Pastor asked me if I would promise obedience and perfect fidelity to the one I was accepting as my husband, my mouth and my heart promised. I will keep it until death.” 214  See also Gesine Hindemith, “Erwirtschaftete Gefühlsarmut. Die gescheiterte Gemeinschaft der Nouvelle Héloïse”, in: Maud Meyzaud (ed.), Arme Gemeinschaft, die Moderne Rousseaus, Berlin: b_books 2015, pp.76–97, where Julie’s public-political function for the community of Clarens is highlighted. 215  The concept of sacrament is ironically reserved for the ‘Parisian marriage’ described by SaintPreux: “On diroit que le mariage n’est pas à Paris de la même nature que par tout ailleurs. C’est un sacrement, à ce qu’ils prétendent, et ce sacrement n’a pas la force des moindres contracts civils: il semble n’être que l’accord de deux personnes libres qui conviennent de demeurer ensemble, de porter le même nom, de reconnoître les mêmes enfants; mais qui n’ont, au plus, aucune sorte de droit l’un sur l’autre; et un mari qui s’aviseroit de controller ici la mauvaise conduite de sa femme n’exciteroit pas moins de murmures que celui qui souffriroit chez nous le desordre public de la sienne. Les femmes, de leur côté, n’usent pas de rigueur envers leurs maris, et l’on ne voit pas encore qu’elles les fassent punir d’imiter leurs infidélités.” (NH, II, XXI, 271). The liberal marriage customs in Paris create a wonderful counter-order, based solely on the freedom of the sexual bond, without any right to the person of the other resulting from this (as will be the case with Kant in particular). Paris, which (according to Rousseau) is democratic or anarchic in matters of love, is thus the opposite of the public order that the novel has set itself the task of creating. 213

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mariages clandestins, qui, n’offrant nul signe de cette union, exposent des cœurs innocens à bruler d’une flame adultere.216 (NH, III, XVIII, P. 359)

In the Contrat social, Rousseau defines laws (“la loi”) as acts of the general will (“actes de la volonté générale”, CS, II, VI, 379). Against this background, Julie’s interpretation of marriage resembles a fictitious act of self-statute; it embodies, as it were, the legislative right from which Rousseau wants the legislator to be so sharply divorced and which is reserved for the sovereign people.217 In the face of such a universal consensus, the invisibly and secretly concluded bond of togetherness falls under the spell of the forbidden. The totality of the third-instance marriage makes the couple marriage based on pure togetherness an adultery. The paradoxical consequence is that the community of two and the community of many are at once mutually exclusive and conditional. In retrospect, Julie, who wanted to keep her heart out of the impending marriage as a refuge for herself and Saint-Preux, goes to the altar as an ‘impure victim’ and ‘adulteress’, not to be atoned for and converted, but to step down from it again as a happily transformed spouse.218 The account of the festivities ends with Julie’s unilaterally proclaimed marriage consensus. There is no word of the groom Wolmar, let alone of a subsequent wedding celebration.219 Instead, Julie, “[d]e retour au logis,” (“back home”) first seeks solitude to deepen her confession in prayer. With the new, divine agency now coming into play for the first time, it is often argued that Julie internalizes the patriarchal agency and insinuates herself into a proto-bourgeois marital order in which the woman subordinates herself to the man and in which the spherical separation of the modern state (male-public politics vs. female-private religion) is reflected.220 In this ‘result-oriented’ reading, however, two aspects seem to me to be lost: For one thing,  “There is a tacit commitment on the part of the whole human race to respect this sacred bond, to honor in themselves the conjugal union; and this is, it seems to me, a very strong reason against clandestine marriages, which, offering no sign of this union, expose innocent hearts to burn with an adulterous flame” 217  Cf. CS, II, VII, 383: “Celui qui rédige les loix n’a donc ou ne doit pas avoir aucun droit législatif […].” 218  Cf. NH, III, XVIII, 352f.: L’idée même de souiller le lit conjugal ne leur fait plus d’horreur … ils méditent des adultères!”, “Dans l’instant même où j’étois prête à jurer à un autre une éternelle fidélité, mon cœur vous juroit encore un amour éternel, et je fus menée au Temple comme une victime impure, qui souille le sacrifice où l’on va l’immoler.”– It is at this ‘adultery’ that Barbara Vinken’s reading begins to highlight the failure of Julie’s desire against the intertextual background of the story of Abaelard and Héloïse and an Augustinian concept of marriage (“Von Fall zu Fall: Rousseau’s Nouvelle Héloïse”, in Stephan Leopold, Gerhard Poppenberg (eds.), Planet Rousseau. Zur heteronomen Genealogie der Moderne, Paderborn: Fink 2015, pp.95–112). 219  A wedding feast is omitted in the novel in favor of the feast discipline practiced in Clarens. Cf. esp. on this: Jean Starobinski, Jean-Jacques Rousseau. La transparence et l’obstacle, Paris: Gallimard 1971, pp.116–129.– By renouncing dancing and partying, Julie incidentally atones for complicity in her mother’s death: “mais après la perte de ma mere je renonçai pour ma vie au bal et à toute assemblée publique; j’ai tenu parole, même à mon mariage, et la tiendrai, sans croire y déroger en dansant quelquefois chez moi avec mes hôtes et mes domestiques.” (NH, IV, X, 458) 220  E.g. Albrecht Koschorke, who characterizes Julie’s prayer as “something like the creed of the bourgeois wife” (Die Heilige Familie und ihre Folgen, Frankfurt a. M.: Fischer 2000, p.183). 216


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Julie is not, after all, sketching out a private ideal in order to establish a public one that would lie beyond herself, but one in which interior and exterior are supposed to coincide. On the other hand, it is more than striking that at no point in her prayerful effusions and meditations on chaste and virtuous marriage does Wolmar’s name appear.221 Whereas in the first part of the novel Julie attributes her transgressions and changes of behavior not to God but rather to heaven (“le Ciel”; e.g. NH, I, LXIII, 178, after the loss of her child; NH, II, XI, 226, at the decision of ‘double consensus’), the divine agency now materializes uniquely in the pastor, in whom Julie believes she sees ‘l’organe de la providence’ (‘the organ of providence’) and hears ‘la voix de Dieu’ (‘the voice of God’) (NH, III, XVIII, 354), and subsequently in what is called ‘prayer’ in the novel. In her account to Saint-Preux, she calls God a ‘voix secrète’ (‘secret voice’), a ‘principe intérieur’ (‘inner principle’), ‘l’Être éternel’ (‘the eternal Being’), ‘l’Être immense’ (‘the immense Being’), ‘l’Être Suprême’ (‘the Supreme Being’) (NH, III, XVIII, 456–358). Whether or not this God makes revelation superfluous in the end, he does not embody, does not materialize in Wolmar, and this seems to me to be the point of Clarens’ mode of operation. Corresponding to the new wife is not a man converted by marriage, not a new husband, nor a new spouse, but a Russian atheist who just once switches his interest from particular interest to the common good (‘utilité commune’), but who remains blind to the truth, to the origin of this common good, until the end. The assessment, according to which the community of Clarens is based on a patriarchal order, can therefore also be straightforwardly reversed: The law of Clarens lies in a de facto general will that a deified Julie alone pronounces.222 She alone is the guarantee that it can be made permanent. Wolmar is irrelevant to this right– for now. Unlike in the story between Emile and Sophie in Rousseau’s novel of education, he plays no role in the marriage initiation; only after the marriage does he come into play like a bad deus ex machina. In her second letter to Saint-Preux after their marriage, Julie actually says everything there is to say about him. Wolmar has a ‘constitution’ of his own. Like the legislator from the Contrat social, he does not really belong to the order he constitutes. Just as Julie is no longer ‘really’ a woman, having given herself entirely to the new collective and ‘supreme being’, so Wolmar is not really a flesh and blood man (with the difference that we do not know what he was before): M. de Wolmar a près de cinquante ans; sa vie unie, reglée, et le calme des passions lui ont conservé une constitution si saine et un air si frais qu’il paroit à peine en avoir quarante, et il n’a rien d’un âge avancé que l’expérience et la sagesse. […] Il est le même pour tout le

 Only at the very end of her recapitulation letter does she return to him: she asks Saint-Preux whether or not she should confess her premarital relationship to her new husband (cf. NH, III, XVIII, 367f.). 222  This is the reverse of the reading suggested by Koschorke, Die Heilige Familie, p.186, according to which the wife must learn to deify her husband. 221

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monde, ne cherche et ne fuit personne, et n’a jamais d’autres préférences que celles de la raison. (NH, III, XX, 369 f.)223

The same for everyone, experience and wisdom, reason as the only guideline; this description alone places Wolmar in the vicinity of the mythical legislator figures often invoked in the Enlightenment, “understood as the embodiment of secular creative power of human reason freed from its immaturity”,224 as the constitutional lawyer Hasso Hofmann characterizes Rousseau’s legislator. Wolmar, however, has such intellectual and pedagogical abilities that the ‘méthode de Wolmar’ has become a chilling topos in criticism of La Nouvelle Héloïse. This may be because precisely this legislator, unlike that of the Contrat social, is not endowed with divine authority. Even if it could almost be conceded to him as an ‘œil vivant’ (‘living eye’), it is denied by his atheism. His being out-of-society/out-of-marriage is also confirmed by the marriage; this is how Julie writes about their relationship: Malgré sa froideur naturelle, son cœur secondant les intentions de mon pere crut sentir que je lui convenois, et pour la premiere fois de sa vie il prit un attachement. Ce goût modéré mais durable s’est si bien réglé sur les bienséances et s’est maintenu dans une telle égalité, qu’il n’a pas eu besoin de changer d’état, et que sans blesser la gravité conjugale il conserve avec moi depuis son mariage les mêmes manieres qu’il avoit auparavant. […] En un mot, il veut que je sois heureuse; il ne me le dit pas, mais je le vois; et vouloir le bonheur de sa femme, n’est ce pas l’avoir obtenu?225 (NH, III, XX, 370)

The marriage has in no way altered the relationship of reason Wolmar previously entered into with Julie: “il n’a pas eu besoin de changer d’état”. Julie also speaks of ‘his’ marriage (‘son mariage’) rather than ‘ours’. Wolmar, as it were, was not there and, as a right-wing legislator, has turned Julie’s theoretical formal general will into a de facto one with his “I do”. In this way, the new community of Clarens has received its first legal realization. The founding act functions in chiastic inversion of the social contract: Whereas there a religiously secured legislator ‘educates’educates’ or ‘transforms’transforms’ individuals and, at the right moment, legally institutes rationally and politically acting individuals as a ‘people’people’, in the novel the  “Mr. de Wolmar is nearly fifty years old; his unified, regulated life and the calm of his passions have kept him so healthy and fresh that he hardly looks forty, and he has nothing of an advanced age but experience and wisdom. […] He is the same for everyone, seeks and shuns no one, and never has any preferences other than those of reason.” 224  Hofmann, “Rousseau’s Legislator,” p.99f. 225  “In spite of his natural coldness, his heart, supporting the intentions of my father, thought he felt that I was suitable for him, and for the first time in his life he took an attachment. This moderate but durable taste was so well regulated by propriety and maintained in such equality that he did not need to change his state, and that without hurting conjugal gravity he has kept with me since his marriage the same manners he had before. [In a word, he wants me to be happy; he does not tell me so, but I see it; and to want his wife to be happy is to have obtained it.” 223


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marriage community is created by a purely rationally and politically acting legislator authenticating the religiously sanctioned act of self-sacrifice. In the novel, Rousseau in a sense reverses the attributions of ‘politics’ and ‘religion’.226

Modern Art ofGovernment: Julie andWolmar By the end of the novel, the fictional marriage law is radically challenged, if not discounted. But Clarens still works. The period during which the estate is ruled by the dual leadership of Julie and Wolmar spans about six years, from 1738 to 1744, until Julie becomes bored and until Saint-Preux, returning from his trip around the world, arrives at Clarens. If one sees Clarens as the product of the novel’s marriage, it should be noted that it is told (by Saint-Preux) merely as a flashback, and that it actually lies– like a chimera– in a long pause in the novel’s plot between the first and second parts. Rotten as the marriage relationship between Julie and Wolmar is, politically the couple works perfectly. Julie and Wolmar act as a dynamic unit; with Paul de Man, one could also say that a perfect readability is simulated in Clarens. Together, Julie and Wolmar form a modern government, a “form of exercising power that reckons with the freedom of the led.”227 In the Contrat social, Rousseau, in strict distinction from the legislative general will (reserved for the people), defines (executive) government (“gouvernement”) as a ‘body’ that mediates between sovereign and subjects: “[u]n corps intermédiaire établi entre les sujets et le Souverain pour leur mutuelle correspondance, chargé de l’éxécution des loix, et du maintien de la liberté, tant civile que politique” (“[a]n intermediary body established between the subjects and the Sovereign for their mutual correspondence, charged with the execution of the laws, and the maintenance of freedom, both civil and political”) (CS, III, I, 396). Clarens, meanwhile, violates this precept of a separation of legislative and executive; Julie and Wolmar embody both a ‘corps politique’ and the executive mediating body of it. The effect of their couple-rule is not equality for all, but absolute difference between the couple and their subjects (friends, children, household staff)– which is why their legal legitimacy remains questionable. In any case, it seems misleading to assume a proto-bourgeois distribution of roles in Clarens’ oikos, according to which Wolmar is the planning and goal-setting authority and the lady of the house ‘merely’ the executive organ.228 Rousseau’s legislator is, after all, distinguished precisely by the fact that he himself has no legislative right. Julie presents her marital relationship with Wolmar to Saint-Preux as a dynamic

 Cf. the last sentence of the chapter “Du législateur,” where Rousseau emphasizes the necessity of religion for the foundation of nations: “Il ne faut pas de tout ceci conclurre avec Warburton que la politique et la religion aient parmi nous un objet commun, mais que dans l’origine des nations l’une sert d’instrument à l’autre.” (CS, II, VII, 384) 227  Cf. Marcus Twellmann, “Zur Transformationsgeschichte der Oikonomik: Rousseaus Neue Héloïse,” Deutsche Vierteljahrsschrift 85 (2011), 161–185; here: S. 179. 228  Cf. for example Friederike Kuster, Rousseau, p.130f. 226

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complementarity that arises exclusively from being a couple and not in demarcation from any other right that lies outside their marriage:229 Il semble que quand on nous eut formés exprès pour nous unir on n’auroit pu réussir mieux. […] Chacun des deux est précisément ce qu’il faut à l’autre; il m’éclaire et je l’anime; nous en valons mieux réunis, et il semble que nous soyons destinés à ne faire entre nous qu’une seule âme, dont il est l’entendement et moi la volonté.230 (NH, III, XX, 473 f.)

The couple is, in a sense, designed autopoietically: He illuminates her, she animates him; as a couple they are more than the sum of their parts. They not only ‘have’ a soul, they ‘make’ one, an expansive soul made up of ‘his’ grasping power and ‘her’ will. This is the performative force that gives rise to the new polity of Clarens– more than a family and less than a state. Together they form a sovereign body that is no longer made up of organs, but only of a soul.231 Full of admiration, Claire writes at the beginning of the fourth book, “Ma Julie, tu es faite pour regner. Ton empire est le plus absolu que je connoisse. Il s’étend jusques sur les volontés, et je l’éprouve plus que personne.” (“My Julie, you are made to reign. Your empire is the most absolute that I know. It extends even over the wills, and I feel it more than anyone else.”) (NH, IV, II, 409) Biological filiation and motherhood play a surprisingly minor role here; Julie has ‘only’ two children, in whose company she is also bored (NH, IV, I, 399). Wolmar and Julie’s marriage, and that is to say the second part of the novel, gives itself the appearance of temporalizing the performative act of marriage, or rather of setting its celebration of itself in perpetuity. Using canonical marriage law vocabulary, this would mean that Rousseau’s novel collapses the matrimonium in fieri (the coming into being of marriage) into a matrimonium in facto esse (marriage as a state).232 Clarens is thus heterotopian rather than utopian, primarily an experiment in a community in the making and a project of a latent community. The regimental principle of (sexual) reciprocity results in an economic reciprocity and in the superfluousness of the question of its legal foundation. The (side) effect of this relationship is not the family or the state, but the self-sustaining, self-­sufficient house, which – if it succeeded in expanding beyond selfpreservation– would pass into the emotional and volitional community of a nation.  In this, Rousseau differs from both romantic and natural law conceptions, which think of the couple as distinct from a normative outside or as a natural unity (such as Fichte). See above Sect. 2.1: Secularization of marriage? Sacramentality and jurisprudence (“From sacred status to an end in itself”). 230  “It seems that if we had been formed on purpose to unite us, we could not have succeeded better. […] Each of the two is precisely what the other needs; he enlightens me and I animate him; we are better together, and it seems that we are destined to become one soul, of which he is the understanding and I the will.” 231  Cf. Pfeiffer, ‘Radikale Politik’, p.140, who relates Rousseau’s absolute metaphor of the body politic to Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of the ‘organless body’ (corps sans organes) in order to plausibilise its non-hierarchical and singular functioning. 232  This is where Manzoni comes in: He, too, temporizes marriage, with the difference that it is the goal from the beginning and is realized only as a postponement, whereas Rousseau allows it to begin as a product of (supposedly) converted love in the middle of the novel, but does not allow it to move beyond a state of latency. 229


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Thus, with the tenth letter of the fourth book (on the servant-master relationship), the second and third letters of the fifth book (on the marital and parental regiment), a complete doctrine of rule of the oikos, following the Aristotelian model, is embedded in the novel.233 Clarens’ success is measured by his ability to make ubiquitous relations of utility visible – ironically, this almost always occurs in situations of crisis and potentially failing incorporation. The first to be incorporated, to be ‘adopted’ by Julie and Wolmar, and to be constantly placed in the position of illusory freedom of choice, is famously Saint-Preux; and it is at his first re-encounter with Julie in Clarens that Wolmar ‘reads’ that fatal imperative of ‘clarity’ which, in view of the act of his marital union with Julie, appears as a repetition of a making visible: “Ne fais ni ne dis jamais rien que tu ne veuilles que tout le monde voye et entende” (“Never do or say anything you don’t want everyone to see and hear”) (NH, IV, VI, 424). Clarens’ stated goal is happiness for all based on complete reciprocity. It has been pointed out several times that Rousseau, with the oikos of Clarens sketched out in La Nouvelle Héloïse, breaks through the classical-­ Aristotelian separation of an ‘économie politique’ and an ‘économie domestique’, although he himself explicitly states this separation in his Encyclopaedia article ‘Économie politique’. It is true that the early modern Oeconomia Christiana, with its logic of depicting divine, monarchical, and fatherly domestic rule, also dealt with a political-theological overarching of the various forms of rule. But Rousseau, as Twellmann emphasizes, no longer resorts to precisely these patterns of justification, which is why he speaks of a de-Christianization of oikonomik. The patriarchal-­ Christian doctrine of the home is replaced by the fiction of a community of love between servants and masters, which is, however, only inadequately described as a “secularism”,234 since the function of religious legitimation in the novel is merely transferred from the father of the house to the ‘converted’ mother of the house. The modern magic word for Clarens’ marital bonding art is ‘emotionalization’. Friends, children and servants are involved in a spectacle that is as ethical as it is melodramatic, the ostensible object of which is ‘innocence’ and ‘amour’, second nature, self-reliance and self-sufficiency;235 a highly explosive spectacle that works as long as everyone submits to it permanently and according to fixed rules. In this, Julie and Wolmar do their work together: While Wolmar incessantly observes and thus prevents rule-breaking, Julie spurs on rule-abiding behavior through affect binding.236 Clarens is not based on the equality of all, but on the equality of the couple, which justifies other power relations and sweetens them in the image of the harmony of  Depending on one’s view of the text, the novel’s ‘house doctrine’ (Lutheran: the doctrine of the marriage state) can be seen as the novel’s center or as its digression. Roland Galle, for instance, speaks of “digression letter[s]” (Galle, Geständnis und Subjektivität, p.141). 234  Cf. Twellmann, “Transformationsgeschichte,” p.184. 235  This is exactly how Saint-Preux begins his description of the house doctrine of Clarens addressed to Lord Édouard: “c’est un spectacle agréable et touchant que celui d’une maison simple et bien réglée où regnent l’ordre, la paix, l’innocence” (NH, IV, X, 441). 236  See also Hindemith, “Erwirtschaftete Gefühlsarmut,” p. 85, which speaks of a “paradoxical marital constellation as the interplay of two energetic strands […], both of which [Wolmar’s excessive observation and Julie’s excessive piety; note D.S.] become the condition and possibility of Clarens’ community.” 233

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couple which is presented.237 Together they do their rounds in the fields. Together they hire personnel and also administer justice to unaccommodating subjects.238 The personnel is recruited from money-poor but child-rich country families, from a surplus of nature, as it were; it consists of marriageable girls and boys who are examined not only for their fitness to serve but also for their fitness to marry. The couple demands submission both to their rule and to all other members of the family– “[à] la subordination des inférieurs se joint la concorde entre les égaux” (“[to] the subordination of inferiors is joined the concord between equals”) (NH, IV, X, 460). Subjects commit themselves not only as wage-workers who receive money for their services, but– as with married couples– as faithful and loving subjects.239 In such a constituted community of will and love, individualization is rendered impossible and the politicization of the couple is advanced. This is represented by the exceptional Sunday and mixed-sex convivialities which are organized by Julie and Wolmar as a marriage market and are intended to lead the women and men to their mutual destiny. Julie sums it up for Saint-Preux: “L’homme et la femme sont destinés l’un pour l’autre, la fin de la nature est qu’ils soient unis par le mariage.” (“Man and woman are destined for each other, the end of nature is that they are united by marriage.”) (NH, IV, X, 456). If Julie and Wolmar count on their servants’ voluntariness in their government, their own marital relationship is based on a “parfait accord des deux époux” (“perfect agreement of both spouses”) (NH, V, II, 530). Perfect harmony levels those differences of authority that Rousseau explicitly notes in favor of the man in the Discours sur l’économie politique.240 Although Saint-Preux’s letter on the “maniere de vivre des maitres” (NH, IV, X, 470) begins tellingly with a reference to the secret torment (“la peine secrette,” NH, V, II, 528) that afflicts Julie and to which we shall return shortly, it is left out of the subsequent description of the sovereign couple’s government. Julie and Wolmar, in their entirely economic dealings with each other, represent the Clarens community of production and consumption based on subsistence and self-sufficiency: “La condition naturelle à l’homme est de cultiver la terre et de vivre de ses fruits.” (NH, V, II, 157) Its self-preservation makes it a political model: “C’est en lui [the condition of autarky; note D.S.] que consiste la véritable prospérité d’un pays, la force et la grandeur qu’un peuple tire de lui-méme, qui ne dépend en rien des autres nations […].” (“It is in this [the condition of autarky; note D.S.] that the true prosperity of a country consists, the strength and greatness that a  Saint-Preux summarizes this in his letter about the harvest in Clarens: “[M]ais la douce égalité qui regne ici rétablit l’ordre de la nature, forme une instruction pour les uns, une consolation pour les autres et un lien d’amitié pour tous.” (NH, V, VII, 608) 238  Cf. NH, IV, X, 445: “M. de Wolmar les interroge, les examine, puis les présente à sa femme. S’ils aggréent à tous deux, ils sont reçus”. 239  “La premiere chose qu’on leur demande est d’être honnêtes gens, la seconde d’aimer leur maître, la troisieme de le servir à son gré” (NH, IV, X, 445)-the third demand arising automatically from the first two. 240  “Par plusieurs raisons tirées de la nature de la chose, le pere doit commander dans la famille. […]” (cf. Rousseau, Discours sur l’économie politique, in: Œuvres complètes, ed. Gagnebin/ Raymond, vol. 3, p.242). 237


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people derives from itself, which does not depend in any way on other nations”) (NH, V, II, 535) While the servants are to be affored happiness in inequality, Julie and Wolmar are concerned– as in the economic household– with the suggestion of the convertibility of the surplus into satisfaction of needs: “l’indispensable conversion de ce que nous avons de trop en ce qui nous manque” (“the indispensable conversion of that which we have too much of into that which we lack”) (NH, V, II, 548).

Julie’s Death andtheQuestion ofJustice The narrative dynamic of the second part of the novel, without which one would hardly get through the long letters on economics, gardening, education and religion, is based on the constriction of two ‘secrets’: the secret of Julie’s premarital relationship– “un secret dangereux” (“a dangerous secret”) (NH, III, XIX, 368) in Saint-­ Preux’s estimation – and the secret of Wolmar’s incredulity. If the love between Saint-Preux and Julie was rendered impossible by external obstacles in the first part of the novel, in the second part, it is religion which interposes itself as an internal obstacle between the spouses. A seamless substitution of secrets is provided by a narrator’s comment in Julie’s wedding letter, in which their supposedly consummated happiness is placed under the veiled caveat of a “fatal secret.”241 Subsequently, one has to read carefully to recognize which ‘secret’ Julie, Claire or Saint-Preux are talking about in each case: the premarital love that Julie actually wants to confess to Wolmar but does not because she fears disturbing the marital peace, or the slowly unfolding secret of Wolmar’s incredulity, which in fact disturbs the marital peace more and more. But by the time we arrive at the scene in the ‘bosquet’ (cf. NH, IV, XII), in which Wolmar forces the lovers to kiss again– now a kiss of friendship and no longer a kiss of love– and in which he reveals to Julie that he had known about the secret of their love even before their marriage, Wolmar’s religious secret has replaced Julie’s love secret. The difference of belief and disbelief is the residual difference in Julie and Wolmar’s seemingly restless reciprocity, a difference that Clarens produces as a political-economic misunderstanding and as a legal sham, but which, in its transformed return, in turn makes the community dependent on the couple, or makes them promise again as a couple. Therefore, La Nouvelle Héloïse can be read as a novel of marriage but also of adultery.242 If one sees in Julie’s marriage– as many readers do and as Wolmar does– a contract that concerns only two, it is Julie who, at the latest with her last letter to Saint-Preux, moves into the position of the potential adulteress. However, if we see the marriage act, as suggested here, in its double mode of action as amplifying re-reading of a love union and as an institutional binding of all, it is Wolmar as the unbeliever who ends up in the  Cf. NH, III, XVIII, 372: “Apparemment qu’elle n’avoit pas découvert encore le fatal secret qui la tourmenta si fort dans la suite, ou qu’elle ne vouloit pas alors le confier à son ami.” 242  Cf. Tony Tanner, Adultery in the Novel. Contract and Transgression, Baltimore/London: The Johns Hopkins University Press 1979, who places the novel at the beginning of the genre. 241

2.3  Two or Many: Rousseau Between Social andMarriage Contract


position of the adulterer.243 The euphoric, political unfolding of the marriage experiment then corresponds to a dysphoric, legal undermining. The letters leave the questions of when exactly Julie learned of her husband’s misfaith, whether she already knew about it before the marriage (just as he already knew about her love for Saint-Preux before the marriage) unanswered. It is Saint-­ Preux who, in the fifth letter of the fifth volume, first describes to his friend Édouard the discrepancy of faith as a substantial threat to the couple’s intimate “union.”244 In the public sphere of Clarens, Wolmar happily plays the believer; Julie has convinced him that this is necessary for public peace.245 Internally in the couple, however, both Julie and Wolmar push for a mutual affirmation of their double religious commitment; the couple is, in other words, concerned with legitimizing their ontological status. Julie wants to convert Wolmar, that is, to bring him closer to the true path: “Si le Ciel, dit-elle souvent, me refuse la conversion de cet honnête homme, je n’ai plus qu’une grace à lui demander; c’est de mourir la premiere.” (“If Heaven, she often says, refuses me the conversion of this honest man, I have only one grace left to ask of him; it is to die first.”) (NH, V, V, 592) Although, as Saint-Preux writes in the same letter, this is utterly futile– “nous ne ramenerons jamais cet homme” (“we will never bring this man back”)– because he simply lacks the “sentiment” (“feeling”) for it (NH, V, V, 594). Wolmar, in turn, in his blindness (to the law and religion of his being a couple) becomes more and more violent towards Julie, as the subsequently described scene in which he exposes her together with Saint-Preux in intimate prayer makes clear. Although Saint-Preux does not speak this and instead has his letter broken off pathetically, Wolmar also fails in his attempts at penetration because– as the novel’s ending shows– Julie maintains the arcanum of the marriage she has contracted until her death. Julie wants to penetrate Wolmar via the heart, Wolmar wants to achieve the same with Julie using looks. The couple in its naked relationality now disavows the presuppositions of the dynamic entity of the de facto general will consummated with Julie’s marriage. Wolmar succeeds less and less in understanding Julie, and that is in reading from her the purpose, the commonality of his marriage-law, though he proudly decrees to Saint-Preux: “Le vrai livre de la nature est pour moi le cœur des hommes, et la preuve que j’y sais lire est dans mon amitié pour vous.” (“The true book of nature for me is the heart of men, and the  But the other members of Clarens, whose marriage Julie courts– Fanchon, Claire, Saint-Preux– also become potentially contract-breaking. At the moment when Wolmar proves to be an erring legislator, Julie takes over his function and drags ‘her children’ into a paradoxical decision-making situation. 244  “[I]l faut connaître l’union qui règne entre eux dans tout le reste, pour concevoir combien leur différend sur ce seul point est capable d’en troubler les charmes.” (NH, V, V, 217) 245  “Madame de Wolmar sentant donc le mauvais effet que ferait ici le pyrrhonisme de son mari, et voulant surtout garantir ses enfants d’un si dangereux exemple, n’a pas eu de peine à engager au secret un homme sincère et vrai, mais discret, simple, sans vanité, et fort éloigné de vouloir ôter aux autres un bien dont il est fâché d’être privé lui-même. Il ne dogmatise jamais, il vient au temple avec nous, il se conforme aux usages établis; sans professer de bouche une foi qu’il n’a pas, il évite le scandale, et fait sur le culte réglé par les lois tout ce que l’État peut exiger d’un Citoyen.” (NH, V, V, 221) 243


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proof that I know how to read it is in my friendship for you.”) (NH, VI, V, 657) He sees order in a nature that is never wrong– an illogical confession for an atheist, as the narrator notes in a footnote (NH, V, III, 563). He is not ready for the renunciation that his medieval model Abaelard made for Heloisa. Saint-Preux, who is at least a little more receptive to transcendence than Wolmar, then also presents the difference in faith to Édouard as a torment (“tourment”), which reveals itself to Julie as particularly cruel during their walks in nature together: Imaginez Julie à la promenade avec son mari; l’une admirant dans la riche et brillante parure que la terre étale l’ouvrage et les dons de l’Auteur de l’univers; l’autre ne voyant en tout cela qu’une combinaison fortuite où rien n’est lié que par une force aveugle. […] Hélas! dit-elle avec attendrissement; le spectacle de la nature, si vivant si animé pour nous, est mort aux yeux de l’infortuné Wolmar, et dans cette grande harmonie des êtres, où tout parle de Dieu d’une voix si douce, il n’apperçoit qu’un silence éternel!246 (NH, V, V, 592 f.)

Wolmar, however, is likely to take particular pleasure in these walks, because here he imagines himself particularly close to the legal ground of his legislative activity. In her second-to-last letter, the one that the narrator describes in a footnote as a swan song, Julie expresses Wolmar’s blindness to the truth by applying to him the veil metaphor that runs through the novel: “Dieu lui-même a voilé sa face. Il ne fuit point la vérité, c’est la vérité qui le fuit.” (“God himself has veiled his face. He does not flee from the truth, but it’s the truth which flees him.”) (NH, VI, VIII, 699) The flip side here is also a self-indulgence, enjoying the expansion of one’s own– higher– being rather than happily absorbed in a third. Trop heureuse is Julie in the end, as one knows: Je me disois: cette petite chambre contient tout ce qui est cher à mon cœur, et peut-être tout ce qu’il y a de meilleur sur la terre; je suis environnée de tout ce qui m’intéresse, tout l’univers est ici pour moi; je jouïs à la fois de l’attachement que j’ai pour mes amis, de celui qu’ils me rendent, de celui qu’ils ont l’un pour l’autre; leur bienveuillance mutuelle ou vient de moi ou s’y rapporte; je ne vois rien qui n’étende mon être, et rien qui le divise; il est dans tout ce qui m’environne, il n’en reste aucune portion loin de moi; mon imagination n’a plus rien à faire, je n’ai rien à désirer; sentir et jouïr sont pour moi la même chose; je vis à la fois dans tous ce que j’aime, je me rassasie de bonheur et de vie: O mort, viens quand tu voudras!247 (NH, VI, VIII, 688 f.)

 “Imagine Julie walking with her husband; the one admiring in the rich and brilliant finery that the earth displays the work and gifts of the Author of the universe; the other seeing in all this only a fortuitous combination in which nothing is linked except by a blind force. […] Alas! she says with tenderness; the spectacle of nature, so lively and animated for us, is dead in the eyes of the unfortunate Wolmar, and in this great harmony of beings, where everything speaks of God with such a sweet voice, he perceives only an eternal silence!” 247  “I said to myself: this little room contains all that is dear to my heart, and perhaps all that is best on earth; I am surrounded by all that interests me, the whole universe is here for me; I enjoy at once the attachment I have for my friends, that which they return to me, and that which they have for each other; I see nothing that does not extend my being, and nothing that divides it; it is in all that surrounds me, there is no portion of it left far from me; my imagination has nothing more to do, I have nothing to desire; to feel and to enjoy are for me the same thing; I live at the same time in all that I love, I am filled with happiness and life: O death, come when you want!” 246

2.3  Two or Many: Rousseau Between Social andMarriage Contract


Wolmar’s and Julie’s ‘actes de la volonté’ (‘acts of will’) in Clarens – in the semblance of law– have bound them more closely together as a double bind and have eroded the binding force on the outside. The decision towards which the novel is heading, but which it completely omits with Julie’s death breaking in as a coincidence, is the question of Wolmar’s conversion. Wolmar’s death, meticulously described, seems to completely disavow the legitimacy of Julie’s marriage rights and the performative power of their consummations: Julie lays dying for three days like a caritas machine, imitating a Christ who is stripped of any potential miraculous activity.248 One wonders how different the account would have looked if Saint-­ Preux, rather than Wolmar, had been responsible for it. Julie dies at the height of a politico-economic illusory happiness, and in the question “Un état permanent est-il fait pour l’homme?” (“A permanent state made for man?”) (NH, VI, XI, 726) turns the right to marry into a right to die. Their general will, sacralized in marriage, is denounced as a false Christian religion incapable of community, which corresponds entirely to how Rousseau describes the “société de vrais chrétiens” (“society of true Christians”) in the Contrat social: “Je dis même que cette société supposée ne seroit avec toute sa perfection ni la plus forte ni la plus durable: A force d’être parfaite, elle manqueroit de liaison; son vice destructeur seroit dans sa perfection même.” (“I would even say that this supposed society, with all its perfection, would be neither the strongest nor the most durable: by dint of being perfect, it would lack connection; its destructive vice would be in its very perfection.”) (CS, IV, VIII, 465) Because of its boundless forbearance and uselessness to the body politic, Rousseau denies Christianity the capacity for institutional commitment. The civic religion opposed to it, which must be decreed by the sovereign, is undogmatic, based on ‘sentimens de sociabilité’ (‘feelings of sociability’) and has its limit in the ‘utilité publique’ (‘public utility’) – personal morality and personal opinions remain untouched. Now, however, Julie’s overall will drew or draws all its binding force from precisely this interior of the subject, which Rousseau’s civic religion excludes. Perhaps what matters here is not so much whether the female conversion covenant of novel fiction subverts the male contract covenant of the contrat social or makes it possible in a female victim. Perhaps more interesting is that the political order both times– be it of a ‘conjugal’ or ‘social contract’ nature– relies on an imaginary couple relationship. The Contrat social ends with an appeal to fight against a Church that prevents the State (and it is here that the footnote with the postulate of a secularized marriage law is placed). La Nouvelle Héloïse ends with a conversion order to the legislator Wolmar, with a command to renew the laws he enacted and to re-read them under the sign of a ‘Suprême Être’. Julie’s ‘inner’ religion and the ‘social’ civil religion thus meet in the criterion of intolerance. Just as civil religion can lead to the death penalty for those who do not ‘live’ it or make it visible, Julie involves the  Goethe’s Die Wahlverwandtschaft unmistakably quotes the death of Julie in the death of Ottilie, with the difference that she is not portrayed in the role of a profane Christ, but of a profane Mother of God. Cf. below Sect. 4.4: Die Wahlverwandtschaften. Depiction of the production of a (decision not to) divorce (“The Case of Ottilie: Double Law and Asymmetrical Appearance”). 248


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community in the threat of death. Her going to ground can be read as a going to the ground that inverts the hierarchy of politics and religion of the contrat social. Her natural body dies, but her political body (‘corps politique’) demands a new ‘constitutional’ connection, a renewed force of law. In this legal perspective, Wolmar’s account of Julie’s death occupies functionally the same place as the chapter ‘De la mort du corps politique’ of the Contrat social. Men cannot prolong their lives, it says there, but that of the state, whose “constitution” is not a natural one but an “ouvrage de l’art,” (“work of art,”) can: “il depend d’eux de prolonger celle de l’Etat aussi loin qu’il est possible” (“it depends on them to extend that of the state as far as possible”) (CS, III, XI, 424). Accordingly, Julie says on her deathbed: “j’ai trouvé l’art d’étendre ma vie sans la prolonger” (“I have found the art of extending my life without prolonging it”) (NH, VI, XI, 718). The question is what legislative force is inherent in this ‘art of extension’ she practiced, or whether the sovereign realized in her marriage decision will confirm the laws since instituted with Clarens in terms of ‘actes de la volonté générale’ (‘acts of general will’).249 In principle, laws are valid as long as the sovereign does not object. His silence signals consent: “La loi d’hier n’oblige pas aujourd’hui, mais le consentement tacite est présumé du silence, et le Souverain est censé confirmer incessamment les loix qu’il n’abroge pas, pouvant le faire.” (“Yesterday’s law is not binding today, but tacit consent is presumed from silence, and the Sovereign is supposed to confirm incessantly the laws that he does not abrogate, being able to do so”). (CS, III, XI, 424) The older a law becomes in this way, the greater its authority. Julie, however, does not want to have a single law confirmed, but rather to have the force of law reinstated, that is, to have the relation between (her) general will and (Wolmar’s) legislation re-legitimized. The novel’s conclusion once again highlights the ambiguous legal status of marriage: on the one hand, it is a quasi-private law based on the freedom and equality of the individual, with which the couple defends itself qua natural law in a defensive ‘contrat civil’ against an encroaching third party (church, king, patria potestas). On the other hand, it is an offensive, constitutional act by which the new state is to be established. Regardless of whether Wolmar converts, whether or not he will pass the baton of the legislator to the lover Saint-Preux,250 at the end of the novel the promise of a (married) couple remains as an alternative to a ‘mere’ contractual fiction.

The Politics andReligion ofCivil Marriage Not only Rousseau’s writings, but also his own ‘marriage’ to Thérèse Levasseur, who came from the simplest of backgrounds, fuelled the marriage debate before, during and after the Revolution. After his reconversion to Protestantism in 1754, Rousseau could not marry publicly in France. The Edict of Nantes had been repealed  And at the executive level, there is the question of who Clarens will be governed by in the future.  Saint-Preux ends up taking the place of the expected friend, educator and legislator, who is supposed to continue enforcing the paradoxical laws of marriage: marrying others without marrying himself; giving life to a constitution of couple-subjects to which he himself does not belong. 249 250

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in 1685 under Louis XIV, effectively excluding Protestants and Jansenists from marriage rights until the introduction of optional civil marriage for non-Catholics in 1787. They had to be married either by the Catholic Church or secretly by a minister, and the so-called ‘mariages au désert’ had no legal effect. Rousseau chose neither option; but apparently he married the Catholic Thérèse anyway after 25years of relationships as a maid, friend and/or lover.251 A testimony from the mayor of Bourgoin, Luc-Antoine Donin de Champagneux, records that he was invited by Rousseau to attend the marriage with Thérèse on 29 August 1768 together with his (Champagneux’) cousin M. de Rosière as witnesses: Rousseau était paré plus qu’à l’ordinaire; l’ajustement de Mlle Renou [the maiden name of Thérèse Levasseur; note D.S.] était aussi plus soigné. Il nous conduisit l’un et l’autre dans une chambre reculée, et là Rousseau nous pria d’être témoins de l’acte le plus important de sa vie; prenant ensuite la main de Mlle Renou, il parla de l’amitié qui les unissait ensemble depuis vingt-cinq ans et de la résolution où il était de rendre ces liens indissolubles par le nœud conjugal. Il demanda à Mlle Renou si elle partageait ses sentiments, et sur un oui prononcé avec le transport de la tendresse, Rousseu, tenant toujours la main de Mlle Renou dans la sienne, prononça un discours où il fit un tableau touchant des devoirs du mariage, s’arrêta sur quelques circonstances de sa vie, et mit un intérêt si ravissant à tout ce qu’il disait, que Mlle Renou, mon cousin et moi versions des torrents de larmes commandées par mille sentiments divers où sa chaude éloquence nous entraînait; puis, s’élevant jusqu’au ciel, il prit un langage si sublime qu’il nous fut impossible de le suivre; s’apercevant ensuite de la hauteur où il s’était élevé, il descendit peu à peu sur la terre, nit prit à témoin des serments qu’il faisait d’être l’époux de Mlle Renou, en nous priant de ne jamais les oublier. Il reçeut ceux de sa maîtresse; ils se serrèrent mutuellement dans leurs bras. Un silence profond succéda à cette scène si attendrissante, et j’avoue que jamais de ma vie mon âme n’a été aussi vivement et délicieusement émue que par le discours de Rousseau. Nous passâmes de cette cérémonie au banquet de noce.252

 Thanks to Rousseau himself and various contemporaries, Thérèse Levasseur is the subject of the most ludicrous and tawdry anecdotes, rumours and calumnies. The 1959 Pléiade edition of the Confessions notes in a footnote: “Il n’existe aucune biographie de Thérèse Le Vasseur.” (Rousseau, Œuvres complètes, ed. Gagnebin/Raymond, vol. 1, p.1406) And the biography is still pending! 252  “Rousseau was dressed more than usual; Ms Renou’s [the maiden name of Thérèse Levasseur; note D.S.] outfit was also more neat. He led us both into a secluded room, and there Rousseau asked us to witness the most important act of his life; then taking Mlle Renou’s hand, he spoke of the friendship which had united them for twenty-five years and of the resolution in which he was to make these ties indissoluble by the marital knot. He asked Mlle Renou if she shared his feelings, and on a yes pronounced with the transport of tenderness, Rousseu, still holding Mlle Renou’s hand in his, delivered a speech in which he gave a touching picture of the duties of marriage, dwelt on some of the circumstances of her life, and put such a delightful interest in everything he said, that Mlle Renou, my cousin and I shed torrents of tears commanded by a thousand different feelings in which his warm eloquence led us; I have to tell you that I am not going to be able to do anything about it, but I have to tell you that I am not going to be able to do anything about it. He received those of his mistress; they embraced each other. A profound silence followed this touching scene, and I confess that never in my life was my soul so keenly and delightfully moved as by Rousseau’s speech. We passed from this ceremony to the wedding banquet. “M. de Champagneux, CC, XXXVI, pp.232f.; cited in Monique Cottret, Bernard Cottret, “Jean-Jacques Rousseau ou paradoxes à propos du mariage”, Bulletin de la Société de l’histoire du protestantisme français 158 (2012), 9–28; here: P. 23f. 251


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Mentioned nowhere by Rousseau in his autobiographical writings, in terms of time and content, this private marriage ceremony is directly related to the confessional marriage crisis and a conviction that legal practice needed to change. In particular, Rousseau had learned – via the jurist Joseph-Michel-Antoine Servan’s Discours dans la cause d’une femme protestante – of an affair in which Jacques Roux, a convert to Catholicism, had wanted to jilt his former Protestant wife and children without compensation.253 Monique and Bernard Cottret also place Rousseau’s demand for a right to marry for the state at the end of the Contrat social in the context of a Gallican view according to which the indissoluble marriage contract preceded the sacrament of marriage and Protestant marriages retained their validity even after conversion to Catholicism.254 In his letter to Du Peyrou, Rousseau writes that marriage was not about the legally dubious security of property and possessions: “S’il s’agissait de fortune et de biens qu’il fallût assurer, ce serait autre chose; mais […] chacun des deux est à l’autre, avec tout son être et son avoir, voilà tout!” (“If it were a question of wealth and property that had to be secured, it would be something else; but […] each of the two belongs to the other, with all his being and his assets, that is all!”)255 It seems as if a social contract is to be concluded here in miniature. However, the ceremony departs from the revolutionary and also Napoleonic marriage legislation at least with regard to the family law obligations resulting from a marriage; the children born between 1747 and 1751, as we know only too well in the case of Rousseau, do not seem to be included in this ‘private’ civil contract. Nevertheless, Monique and Bernard Cottret make Rousseau’s marriage the first civil marriage in France. Rousseau, they argue, was unable to become involved in the marriage law debate in a publicistic way because of the arrest warrant against him, and instead chose the path of creating ‘a republican exemplar’ through clandestine marriage.256 This attempt at a late political consecration of the reciprocal promise of fidelity seems almost grotesque in view of the propagandistic exploitation of ‘Rousseau’s marriage’ even in revolutionary times. In October 1794, the Paris “Théâtre de l’Égalité” offered a musically framed play entitled “Mariage de Rousseau” in celebration of the ‘Citizen of Geneva’, which celebrated the civil marriage– first introduced in 1792, but not yet very successful– “en plein champ” using the example of Jean-Jacques and Thérèse.257 Portalis, a leading figure in the  Cf. Cottret, Cottret, “Rousseau ou paradoxes à propos du mariage”, p. 22, and Giovanni Incorvati, “Ni Rome ancienne, ni Rome moderne. Thérèse et Jean-Jacques, ou le Code civil”, in Théry, Biet (eds.), La Famille, la Loi, l’État de la Révolution au Code civil, pp.29–44; here: S. 30. 254  The so-called regalist, Gallican theories deviate from the canonical law of marriage, according to which the different faith of the spouse was a separating obstacle to marriage. With the separation of contract and sacrament or the conception of an antecedence of the contract, they worked against the introduction of civil marriage. Cf. Schwab, Grundlagen und Gestalt der staatlichen Ehegesetzgebung, pp.93–137. 255  Rousseau à Du Peyrou, 26 septembre 1768 (CC, 36, p.122); quoted in: Incorvati, “Ni Rome ancienne, ni Rome moderne”, p.30. 256  Cf. Cottret, Cottret, “Rousseau ou paradoxes à propos du mariage,” p.23. 257  Cf. Incorvati, “Ni Rome ancienne, ni Rome moderne”, p.29f. Text and music of the play are apparently lost. 253

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drafting of the Code civil, referred back to Rousseau’s concept of the law to secure compulsory civil marriage (with a ban on church pre-weddings): “la loi est définie par la constitution, un acte de la volonté générale” (“the law is defined by the constitution, an act of the general will”)258 and establishes marriage– with Napoleon– as one of the “sacrements civils” (“civil sacraments”).259 Thérèse Levasseur, at any rate, has gone down in history, if not as ‘épouse’ or Madame Rousseau, then at least as ‘veuve de Rousseau’. To whom this and the associated pension, which the Assemblée nationale granted her from 1790 onwards, was ultimately due – to a ‘husband’ Rousseau, the Revolution or to Thérèse’s skill– may in the end be left open. What is decisive for the wider context is that with the couple as the founding figure of the community, Rousseau left behind an open question, and not just a literary one.

 Portalis, “Rapports sur les articles organiques de la convention passée à Paris le 26 messidor an XI entre le gouvernement français et le pape” (1801); quoted in: Incorvati, “Ni Rome ancienne, ni Rome moderne”, p.32. 259  Cf. Conrad, “The Foundation of Modern Civil Marriage by the French Revolution,” p.359. 258


Manzoni: Law andNovel

“We, in Italy, are not so apt to despair,” replied the Italian smilingly. (Ann Radcliffe, The Italian or the Confessional of the Black Penitents, London: Oxford University Press 1968, p.3.)

3.1 Couple Poetics Unlike in Rousseau’s Nouvelle Héloïse, the marriage in Manzoni’s novel is not in the middle but at the end. I promessi sposi is Manzoni’s only novel, or rather, a novel-project, that has survived in three versions (1823, 1827, 1840). It therefore spans almost twenty years and is inseparable from the project of a poetological justification of the novel. The figure of marriage, it should be noted, is not in the service of a political partisanship, or if it is, then at best only secondarily. Manzoni did not participate in the debate on the introduction of civil marriage; in his defense of Catholic morality, the Osservazioni sulla morale cattolica, marriage is conspicuously absent. However, the double marriage of his wife Enrichetta Blondel– civil Calvinist in Milan in 1808 and canonical ecclesiastical in Paris two years later in 1810– expresses a political relevance of the subject that the novel figuralizes with the marriage narrative. In the novel, which takes place around 1630, the then quasi newly enacted, Tridentine-­ canonical marriage law forms, as it were, the starting point. Corrupted by those who were to apply it, it operates as the legal framework of the novel.1 Renzo and Lucia  On this matrimonial framework of the text, see in more detail Vf. “Manzoni’s Promessi Sposi and Goethe’s Hermann und Dorothea”, in Angela Oster, Francesca Broggi, Barbara Vinken (eds.), Manzonis Europa– Europas Manzoni. L’Europa di Manzoni– Il Manzoni dell’Europa, Munich: Utz 2017, pp.329–368. 1

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer-Verlag GmbH, DE, part of Springer Nature 2022 D. Stöferle, Marriage as a National Fiction,



3  Manzoni: Law andNovel

want to marry, but the local feudal lord Don Rodrigo knows how to prevent this by having the village priest Don Abbondio threatened. The novel can be roughly divided into a first part in which the couple is still together until their escape from the village (chapters I to VIII), the subsequent journey of Renzo, which leads him from Monza to Milan and across the Adda to Bergamo (chapters XI to XVII and XXVII), a third part, which describes Lucia’s abduction and her liberation (chapters XX to XXVII), and a final section (from chapter XXVIII) with the reunion of the separated pair in Milan. Stefano Stampa, Manzoni’s stepson, famously said that the laws against prevented marriages cited in Ripamonti’s Historia patriae (the novel’s main historical source) had given him the idea for his novel.2 Renzo has one of these decrees read to him by the corrupt lawyer Azzecca-garbugli and deduces from it that Don Abbondio should not have refused to perform his marriage – which, as we know, brings him no closer to his goal of marrying Lucia. Don Abbondio’s first excuse for not having to perform the marriage ceremony is to list canonical obstacles to marriage for Renzo in Latin hexameters, thus making him believe that they are ‘formal’ obstacles: “‘Sapete voi quante e quante formalità ci vogliono per fare un matrimonio in regola?’” (PS, II, 28)3 After Renzo falls on deaf ears with Azzecca-­ garbugli– despite suitable decrees (Grida)– and after Padre Cristoforo also fails in dissuading Don Rodrigo from his desire, Agnese has the idea of the surprise wedding, in which a legal loophole in the Tridentine formalities is to be used for marriage. The “Tametsi” decree legally establishes a marriage form, but since dogmatically it is the nupturients themselves who administer the sacrament to each other, and the priest acts only as notary, the possibility of catching Don Abbondio off guard arises. But it too fails, and thus a marriage already begun with the betrothal is temporized into the unforeseeable, until the end of the novel, where even the legal-canonical marriage ceremony is described only as a terse postscript to the actual climax of the couple’s novelistic (re)union in the plague hospital: “Venne la dispensa, venne l’assolutoria, venne quel benedetto giorno: i due promessi andarono, con sicurezza trionfale, proprio a quella chiesa, dove, proprio per bocca di don Abbondio, furono sposi.” (PS, XXXVIII, 667)4 If Renzo and Lucia are married at the end “proprio per bocca di don Abbondio” – and not by a couple consensus  Cf. the “Note” to Fermo e Lucia, in Alessandro Manzoni, Fermo e Lucia, ed. Alberto Chiari and Fausto Ghisalberti, Milan: Mondadori 1964, p.754. 3  “‘Do you know how many formalities there are to be completed in order to perform a marriage ceremony properly?’” (p.40). The texts of I promessi sposi, unless otherwise indicated, are taken and translated by the editor from the Mondadori edition of the works, procured by Chiari and Ghisalberti: Alessandro Manzoni, Tutte le opere, vol. II/1: I Promessi Sposi. Testo definitivo del 1840 and vol. II/3: Fermo e Lucia, ed. Alberto Chiari and Fausto Ghisalberti, Milan: Mondadori 1963 and 1964. The following sigles are used: PS = I promessi sposi (1840); FL = Fermo e Lucia (1823); CI = Storia della Colonna Infame (1840). The German translations of the Promessi sposi follow the edition: Alessandro Manzoni, Die Brautleute. I Promessi Sposi, transl. Burkhart Kroeber, Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag3 2003 (2000). Quotations from Fermo e Lucia are translated into German by the author and into English by the editor. 4  “The dispensation came, the acquittal came, and the blessed day came: the bride and groom went with triumphant light-heartedness to none other than their church, where they were married by none other than Don Abbondio.” (S. 846). 2

3.1  Couple Poetics


constitutive of marriage– the question naturally arises as to what kind of right the marriage is supposed to establish. As an improbable and fairy-tale happy ending, this marriage is then repeatedly invoked in Sposi criticism to denounce Manzoni’s ‘Christian novel’ as an anachronism and, from a romantic-theory point of view, an unfashionable and unrealistic novel.5 In the following reading, my aim is to argue against such an aesthetic reservations and to highlight a specific modernity that I attempt to capture in the concept of a poetics of the couple. Two objections in particular play a role in the anachronism thesis, one criticizing the novel as a love story, the other as a (psychological) novel of development or education. On the one hand, the ‘love story’ between Renzo and Lucia is only a pretext for the representation of a primarily historical-­ philosophical or historical-theological conflict, which revolves around history (instead of the ‘real’ novel). The subject of the novel would then not be love as passion, as a problematic of affect, but a modern rationality problematized in terms of ‘providentiality’ and ‘contingency’, ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, ‘power’ and ‘language’. The argument is usually substantiated text-genetically, that is, with the radical truncation of the Gertrude episode in the final version of the novel. What is also omitted with Gertrude’s story is a poetological digression in which the narrator uses a fictional character to argue against the literary representation of passionate acts of love. This supposed exclusion, which I will discuss in more detail in the juxtaposition of Gertrude’s and Lucia’s characters,6 has led to I promessi sposi being repeatedly referred to as a ‘romance novel without love’ (‘romanzo senz’amore’).7 Because of his Christian Catholic convictions, Manzoni would have subjected the depiction of erotic, physical, passionate love to self-censorship in favour of Christian caritas.8 But just as a non-literal portrayal of passion need not automatically entail its censorship, texts can indeed claim something other than their authors intended.9 Thus, against the claim of censorship, I would like to pursue the hypothesis  Cf. as representative Frank-Rutger Hausmann, “Alessandro Manzoni’s Die Verlobten (1840), a ‘Christian Novel’ of the Nineteenth Century,” in Helmut Siepmann (ed.), Von Augustinus bis Heinrich Mann: Meisterwerke der Weltliteratur, Bonn: Romanistischer Verlag 1989, pp.39–56; Joachim Küpper, “Ironisierung der Fiktion und De-Auratisierung der Historie. Manzoni’s Response to the Historical Novel (I Promessi Sposi),” Poetica 26 (1994), 121–152. 6  See Sect. 3.3: “Lucia in the process of sacralization”. 7  See, for example, Giovanni Macchia, Manzoni e la via del romanzo, Milano: Adelphi 1994, p.78: “Si ripete spesso, con una frase che è divenuta un luogo commune, che I Promessi Sposi sono un romanzo senz’amore.” 8  The non-representation of the Passion of Love has encouraged numerous parodies of the novel. Cf. Luciano Parisi, “Alessandro Manzoni’s I Promessi Sposi: A Chaste Novel and an Erotic Palimpsest,” Modern Language Review 103 (2008), 424–437. Mentioned are: Guido da Verona, I promessi sposi (1930), Piero Chiara, I promessi sposi (1970), Mario Soldati, La confessione (1955), Alberto Moravia, Gli Indifferenti (1929), and Sebastiano Vassalli, La chimera (1990). 9  The question of self-censorship also essentially concerns the question of differences and similarities between the three versions of the novel. Only the transition from Fermo e Lucia to the Promessi sposi reveals the figuralization of love as a ‘main generator’ of the text. On the tendency to distinguish three autonomous texts in Manzoni’s novel, cf. esp. the edition: Alessandro Manzoni, I romanzi, ed. Salvatore S.Nigro and Ermanno Paccagnini, Milan: Mondadori 2002 (vol. 1: Fermo e Lucia [with an excellent commentary]; vol. 2.1: I promessi sposi (1827); vol. 2.2: I promessi sposi (1840) [with illustrations by Francesco Gonin]). 5


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according to which ‘love’ has a central epistemic function for the novel. Love would thus remain the something other that the novel supplements. This would then not only apply to the final version of the novel, as is suggested when it is said that the early version was still a love novel, but that the later version no longer was, but also to Fermo e Lucia.10 At no point does the text explicitly condemn the passion of love; it presupposes it and shifts its meaning towards the figure of marriage, which would be understood as a right of community.11 In negotiating power relations through the example of the couple, it is always also about the condition and possibility of a ‘just’ relationality. In this sense, one could speak of a deconstruction of the romance novel rather than its exclusion or censorship.12 Fabio Danelon also concludes that the Promessi sposi oppose the modern, individualistic myth of the romantic love marriage that dominated European literature of his time.13 He recognizes in marriage a “tema sotterraneamente cruciale del romanzo,”14 but suspects its deeper meaning primarily in a hidden biographical narrative. I would say, on the other hand, that the concept of the romantic love marriage is universalized and transferred to the community.15 One could say, as Luhmann does, that the novel presupposes romantic love as a medium of communication in order to make it a function of a fictional totality in a paradoxical novelistic enterprise.16 The second objection to the anachronism thesis concerns the question of whether and to what extent Manzoni’s novel can be said to be a Bildungsroman or a novel of development. The character psychology of Promessi sposi has repeatedly become the target of criticism, with  Paolo Valesio is very sharp in denying that the promessi sposi has taken up the challenge of erotic love, and ideologically powerful in this they would have unjustly eclipsed all other Italian narratives of the nineteenth century (Paolo Valesio, “Lucia, ovvero la ‘reticentia’”, in: Giovanni Manetti (ed.), Leggere I promessi sposi, Milan: Bompiani 1989, pp.145–175). 11  Cf. in an intellectual-historical perspective on this thesis also Giorgio Melloni, “Il matrimonio come luogo della giustizia: un accostamento di Manzoni e Proudhon”, Italica 84 (2007), pp.534–547. 12  On the failure of an ideologization of the bourgeois patriarchal love marriage using the example of the chiastic relationship of Gertrude and Lucia, cf. Barbara Vinken, “Nuovo romanzo– Sponsa and sponsina: Manzoni’s two brides”, in: Dies., Susanna Elm (eds.), Bride of Christ. Familienformen in Europa, Paderborn: Fink 2016, pp.113–133. 13  Fabio Danelon, Né domani, né mai. Rappresentazioni del matrimonio nella letteratura italiana, Venice: Marsilio 2004 (on Manzoni: pp.159–220).– He traces how marriage and love (amourpassion) are kept strictly separate in the novel, and points out that this also eliminates the depiction of an (intimate) married life. In the largely motivic analysis, he shows how almost all the marital (or quasi-marital) couples in the novel– from Don Abbondio and Perpetua to Tonio and Tecla– are described as failing or as having failed. 14  Ibid., p.219. 15  Cf. also Gianfranco Folena, who writes: “L’amore dei Promessi è un sentimento globale, del quale non si può fare un’analisi: è indicibile e non si può neppur nominare.” (in “Manzoni ‘libertino’ e i romanzi d’amore”, in id., Angela N.Bonanni, Francesco d’Episcopo, Salvatore S.Nigro, Manzoni e oltre, Naples: Edizioni Scientifiche Italiane 1987, pp. 11–50; here: S. 15). Folena reports on the traces of early love poetry and affairs that have survived (despite censorship), especially the satirical Sermoni and an early letter to the friend Giovan Battista Pagani. 16  Niklas Luhmann, Love as Passion. Zur Codierung von Intimität, Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp 1994 (1982). 10

3.1  Couple Poetics


opinions differing as to whether the characters undergo anything at all like authentic development (and if so, what kind) or whether they are not, after all, merely static and artificially-paternally-generated narrative puppets. This is because the basic concept of the Bildungsroman is alien to the novel, and ‘development’ in the novel is never meant to be anything other than conversion.17 Nevertheless, when it is applied to the novel, it is usually to Renzo, who lists in a disturbing irony on the last page of the novel all that he has ‘learned’ from his story.18 Lucia, on the other hand, seems excluded from an ‘educational or learning process’ from the start; in looking at the minor characters, who can be classified grosso modo as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, the concept of conversion almost suggests itself: Padre Cristoforo has it behind him, Gertrude before her, and the spectacular one of the Innominato is portrayed in actu. But while the novel’s striking conversions – that of Padre Cristoforo and the Innominato – are essentially based on guilt, on a (Pauline) transformation from perpetrator to restorer, the question of conversion in relation to the main characters Renzo and Lucia remains a more cryptic matter. That the novel also applies to them the concept of conversion by which the loving passion is to be justified is a basic assumption that structures the present chapter. With the loving pair of protagonists, I promessi sposi uses a quasi-Christological model of conversion, based not on guilt but on loving self-sacrifice, for novelistic poetic purposes.19 It should become clear that not only is the narrator a divided one, but that he in a sense transfers his division onto the couple. On the one hand, there is, as we know, the split in the narrative instance between an ‘anonymous’, the fictional historian who wrote down the ‘true’ story in the seventeenth century, and a narrator who reframes the ‘beautiful story’ for the modern reader (supposedly only orally). This editor’s fiction can seem anachronistic against the background of the modern coming of age novel or even romance novel, but it allows a multi-perspective narration, a distancing and reflexification of the fiction. This is not a matter of a principled openness of fiction or of the coherence of its context, but of the competition, or more precisely of the novelistic equilibration, of two different concepts of fiction. Thus, the narrator can be said to be poetologically, and just like his couple-protagonist, split into a ‘masculine’

 Here, Manzoni stands entirely in the French moralist tradition, which collides with a substantialist concept of individuality. Cf. Rainer Warning, “‘Éducation’ und ‘Bildung’. Zum Ausfall des Bildungsromans in Frankreich”, in Jürgen Fohrmann (ed.), Lebensläufe um 1800, Tübingen: Niemeyer 1998, pp.121–140. 18  Cf. esp. Guido Baldi, L’Eden e la storia. Lettura dei Promessi sposi, Milan: Mursia 2004. 19  In the Osservazioni sulla morale cattolica there is a separate chapter “Sul ritardo della conversione” (OMC, IX, pp.102–119), in which Manzoni takes up Sismondi’s reproach that the possibility of general confession before death only promotes moral decay. The text is cited below with the sigle OMC, chapter and page references according to: Manzoni, Osservazioni sulla morale cattolica, in Tutte le opere di Alessandro Manzoni, ed. Alberto Chiari and Fausto Ghisalberti, vol. III, Milan: Mondadori 1963, pp.1–250. translations after: Reflections on Catholic Morality, in The Works of Alessandro Manzoni, ed. Hermann Bahr and Ernst Kamnitzer, trans. Franz Arens, vol. 6, Munich: Theatiner-Verlag 1923. 17


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and a ‘feminine’ poetics, culminating in a metaphorical right of marital fiction.20 In this sense, the path to marriage– similar to Rousseau’s– is the path of a conversion, albeit a double conversion that affects both bride and groom. This difference, which so far has not been systematically pursued, will be the focus of the following reading, whereby I am particularly interested in the fictional productivity of such a couple poetics. In the fact that the novel postulates a fairer world than reality lies the moment of irrefutability. First and foremost, Manzoni as the author denies his text the status of a novel. Only in the very first preface to Fermo e Lucia does the narrator confess “di aver fatto un romanzo, genere proscritto nella letteratura moderna”;21 in subsequent prefaces however, this fact is denied. This prohibition of genre refers not only to the choice of novel form, as Daniela Brogi has shown,22 but also to the type of genre, the type of genus, that this form brings to representation. Manzoni was himself probably his harshest critic in terms of his novel as a new “forma dell’arte”.23 His treatise Del romanzo storico, written in parallel with the novel revision, works extensively to deconstruct the opposition between ‘storia’ and ‘invenzione’.24 Its first– systematic– part is concerned with the logical refutation of the theoretical possibility of a genre that seeks to mix historical truth and poetic invention. The text  There is a basic reference to the generic split in Fredric Jameson, “Magical Narratives: Romance as Genre,” New Literary History 7 (1975), pp.135–163; here: pp.151f., though he does not pursue the (a-)symmetry of genre and gender further: “In I Promessi Sposi, for instance, it becomes clear that the separation of the lovers provides Manzoni with two distinct and alternating story lines which in fact constitute two very different types of narrative: on the one hand, the plight of Lucia gives him the material for a Gothic novel, in which the victim eludes one trap only to fall into a more agonizing one, confronting villains of ever blacker nature. In this half of his plot, then, Manzoni has at his disposal a modal instrument for developing his vision of evil and redemption, and conveying narrative messages about the inward life and the fate of the soul. Meanwhile Renzo wanders through the great world of history and of the displacement of vast armed populations, the realm of the destiny of peoples and the vicissitudes of their governments. […] It is the presence, and systematic interweaving, then, of these two quite different generic modes of narrative which lends Menzoni’s book an appearance of breadth and variety scarcely equaled elsewhere in world literature.” 21   Alessandro Manzoni, “Introduzione (Prima stesura)”, in id., Fermo e Lucia, ed. Nigro/ Paccagnini, p.5. 22  Daniela Brogi, Il genere proscritto. Manzoni e la scelta del romanzo, Pisa: Giardini Editori e Stampatori 2005. 23  Alessandro Manzoni, Del romanzo storico e, in genere, de’ componimenti misti di storia e d’invenzione, in id., Tutte le opere, vol. V/III: Scritti letterari, ed. Carla Riccardi and Biancamaria Travi, Milan: Mondadori 1991, pp.287–366; here: S. 366. 24  The text is said to have been written in response to Adolf Streckfuss’s review of Sposi in Kunst und Alterthum, which Manzoni mistakenly attributed to Goethe, and was originally conceived as an open letter to Goethe. However, other textual reactions, including that of Tommaseo, may also have played a role. Its composition dates back to 1827/1828; completed in 1849/1850, the treatise first appeared in Opere varie in 1850. Cf. the “Nota al testo” by Silvia de Laude in: Alessandro Manzoni, Del romanzo storico e, in genere, de’ componimenti misti di storia e d’invenzione, ed. Giancarlo Vigorelli (= vol. 14 of the Edizione Nazionale ed Europea delle Opere di Alessandro Manzoni), Milan: Centro Nazionale Studi Manzoniani 2000, pp.87–107. 20

3.1  Couple Poetics


reads as if it anticipates Hayden White’s thesis, according to which all historiography necessarily produces fictions, especially from the point where the problematic relationship between factual reality and probability is extended to the domain of historiography. In the second, literary and genre-historical part of his treatise, it becomes clear that Manzoni tries to think of the historical novel decidedly from the point of view of an epic that establishes and supports the state and, with Rüdiger Campe, one might say, as an institutional novel of marriage.25 Homer’s epics were still history, Manzoni argues with Vico. And in Virgil the impossible and unique happens once again: the poetically probable unfolds without collision with the historically factual. The Aeneid depicts “la fondazione e il progresso della città”26 and Virgil knows how to bring his subject matter– “Roma, il soggetto, direi quasi, ulteriore del poema”27– from the past into the present. For the modern era, Manzoni establishes, quite Hegelianly, a scientization and prosaization of conditions. The poet must invent his founding event, ‘Rome’, as a ‘novel’, because it is withdrawn from him. Thus, apodictically, at the end of the treatise, “[I]l romanzo storico non prende il soggetto principale dalla storia, per trasformarlo con un intento poetico, ma l’inventa, come il componimento dal quale a preso il nome, e del quale è una nova forma.”28 As for the invention of the founding event– in the Promessi sposi, as is well known, there is no city, no empire, no nation at the centre, but simple people from an anonymous village, ‘gente di nessuno’, who want to marry– it is all the more astonishing that Manzoni in Del romanzo storico leaves the tradition of the romance novel completely unmentioned.29 At no point, for example, is the name of Pierre-Daniel Huet mentioned, who in his Lettre-traité sur l’origine des romans (1669) salutes the novel as a useful pleasure based on the ancient oriental romance novel. Only because they are also historical do the “romanzi storico-eroico-erotici (non saprei come chiamarli con un nome solo)”30 of a Mademoiselle de Scudéry appear at one point. The novel is a genre for which the author lacks a name and  Cf. Rüdiger Campe, “Kafkas Institutional Novel. Der Prozess, Das Schloss”, in id., Michael Niehaus (eds.), Gesetz, Ironie, Heidelberg: Synchron Verlag 2004, pp.197–208.– Campe proposes the term as an alternative for the unfortunate term ‘Bildungsroman’, which is also repeatedly used for Renzo– in a negative variant! Its application to Manzoni with the thesis of an instituted marriage and the novel implies a doubling: the institution is not thought here from the subject, but from the couple. 26  Manzoni, Del romanzo storico, p.321. 27  Ibid., p.325. (“Rome, so to speak, the more distant object of poetry.”) The German translation is based on the edition: Alessandro Manzoni, “Über den historischen Roman und im Besonderen: über die Zusammenkomposition von Geschichte und freier Erfindung,” in: Die Werke von Alessandro Manzoni, ed. Hermann Bahr und Ernst Kamnitzer, übers. Franz Arens, vol. 5 (= writings on philosophy and aesthetics), Munich: Theatiner-Verlag 1923, pp.345–449; here: p.393. 28  Ibid., p.363. “[T]he historical novel [does not] take its main object from history […] in order to reshape it with poetic intent, but invents it, as well as the mode of composition whose name it bears and of which it is a new figure” (transl. Arens, p.445). 29  On village literature, see now: Marcus Twellmann, Dorfgeschichten. How the world comes to literature. Göttingen: Wallstein 2019. 30  Ibid., p.309. “[T]he historical-heroic-erotic novels (I wouldn’t know how to name them in one word)” (transl. Arens, p.372). 25


3  Manzoni: Law andNovel

which must be ‘invented’ anew. As a historical novel, the ‘genre’ remains a sort of mixture by necessity, a “componimento”, and as such it remains– like the Passion of Love – a supplement. The ‘mean prose’ (‘vile prosa’31) of the Promessi sposi invents the lowly heroic couple, the ‘villani’ Renzo and Lucia, who hold the story together in the figure of marriage and make it sustainable as a ‘nascent’ community. Manzoni’s justification of the (historical) novel remains essentially an indictment because of the coup of inventio. The poetic beginning of the novel is simultaneously brought into view as the beginning of its end. On the last page of the treatise, the historical novel is compared to a child carrying the germs of fatal disease, and one’s own text is looked back upon as a “fare il processo al romanzo storico”.32 This links Del romanzo storico to that other end of the Promessi sposi, the Storia della Colonna Infame, which Manzoni revised at the same time and which put the judges of a historical trial on trial themselves. With the story of the ointment smearers who are cruelly executed in Milan in 1630 for spreading the plague, and with the story of Gertrude, who is forced to enter a convent with fatal consequences, two historical legal cases are incorporated into the novel. For the justification of Renzo and Lucia’s ‘conjugal’ legal community, these two legal cases occupy a central position. Because they mirror the justification of the subject in a negative way, i.e. in questionable court situations, the reading begins in Sects. 2.2 and 2.3 with an analysis of how these cases or trials are represented and fictionalised in the novel. The ideal, fictional protagonists Renzo and Lucia emerge from the shadows of the convicted plague smearers and the accused nun. Interestingly, Manzoni processes the two historical cases in completely different ways. While he reverses the victim-perpetrator roles in the trial of the untori and finds in the judges the ‘true’ perpetrators who had succumbed to their affects, Gertrude’s case is brought to a legal undecidability. The heat of passion, which causes her to rebel and plunge into crime, remains ambivalent. In both cases, Manzoni thus places a passionality on the part of the actors at the center of a moral investigation, which he uncompromisingly condemns in one case but highly ambiguates in the other. Moreover, as will also be shown, the case representations have an almost contrarian status for the novel fiction. The Storia della Colonna Infame marks, as it were, the outer edge of the novel with the writer’s judgment of the judges. Manzoni outsources it from the novel, although it should remain inseparable from it. The story of Gertrude and her ambiguous love affair, on the other hand, constitutes a kind of inner boundary that cannot be ‘outsourced’ from the novel, despite quantitative-content cuts. In this respect, it can be said that legal judgment and aesthetic judgment are polarized in the historical cases, but brought into symmetrical balance in the fictional novel protagonists. It is at the ‘turning point’ of an ambiguous affect towards a positive agency that the right to possess the other ‘as a man’ or ‘as a woman’ is decided in the case of both novel protagonists. Their love affect is thereby ambiguated in a separate world encounter in each case– rather than in intimate love communication– in order to be fictitiously, novelistically justified 31 32

 Ibid., p.347.  Ibid., p.366.

3.2  Renzo intheProcess ofProfanation


at the end in the metaphorical marriage. In tracing Renzo and Lucia’s journey, it should become clear how the narrator profanes the masculine love affect and renders it ‘harmless’, while Lucia’s affect is sacralized and made ‘effective’ for couple-­ as-­community formation. In this sense, the novel does not so much marry two characters as two worlds. The event of such a just marriage, by which Manzoni’s radically negative romance poetics unqualifies itself, can be related to the freedom of marriage of the French Revolution outlined in the previous chapter: It is the universalization of a marriage bond whose ground is separation.

3.2 Renzo intheProcess ofProfanation The figures of the Promessi sposi are like playing cards, Pasolini writes. Everyone shuffles and arranges the deck as they wish, and everyone picks a favorite card. His favourite character is Renzo, because he belongs to the comic and poetic register of the novel like no other: not clearly good, not clearly bad, he moves in a zone of existential being, which makes him a “figura straordinariamente poetica”. At the same time, this intuition leads Pasolini to the observation that Manzoni’s novel is not about a heterosexual couple relationship, but about homoeroticism: “una volta privilegiato e messo sull’altare il rapporto d’amore uomo-donna, tutti i rapporti che formano l’intreccio del libro sono caratterizzati da una strana intensità (fraternalità o odio) omoerotica”.33 Women would thereby be excluded from any “rapporto sexuale” or included in a “cristalizzazione della femminilità”. The main attraction, according to Pasolini, is the homoerotic connections between the men: Don Rodrigo and the Griso, Don Rodrigo and his cousin Attilio, with whom he bets for Lucia, Cardinal Borromeo and the Innominato, etc. In this way, he aims at the sexuality of power relationships and at the question of power in the sexual– it is a question of ‘brotherhood’ or hatred, in other words about question of what role equality, superiority or inferiority plays in the relationship. In this, Pasolini seems to ascribe to Renzo something like a brotherly relationship with the narrator-author: “Renzo è una proiezione nostalgica del Manzoni […]. Renzo è il simbolo della salute e dell’integrità.”34 It is instructive to confront this reading with a book like Giorgio di Rienzo’s Per amore di Lucia, which speaks of Lucia’s absolute privilege and of a narrator-author who, jealous of all the other characters, sublimates his spousal love

 Pier Paolo Pasolini, “Alessandro Manzoni, I promessi sposi (1973),” in id., Saggi sulla letteratura e sull’arte, vol. II, Milan: Mondadori 1999, pp.1861–1866; here: p.1862f. 34  “The shadow of two trials perennially stirred in the background of Manzoni’s inspiration, that of Gertrude and that of the anointers. The former investigated the problem of family upbringing, the latter the administration of justice and the means employed by it. In the former there is at its origin sex, eros, which cannot be suppressed but only educated; in the latter there is the problem of the propagation of evil. On the one hand is convention, on the other torture. In the contrast in which he came to find himself, dragged by particular stories that he judged necessary and that took more and more space in the unfolding of the novel, these two episodes were the most tormented in the tormented history of Promessi Sposi.” Ibid., p.1863. 33


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in Lucia.35 With Eve Sedgwick’s concept of the homosocial, one is tempted to ascribe a homosocial desire to the novel, whereby with an exclusion of femininity, the power privilege of men is secured.36 But what would be the outcome if one assumed that one could choose not only a character but also the couple as one’s favorite card? If one were to assume that the narrator maintains a special relationship with both Renzo and Lucia in order to represent a certain form of sociality? Such a focus on the couple as a mediating figure for the community is not only suggested by the novel’s title. It also draws its evidence from the two legal cases, no less parallel than the protagonists, both of which (almost) disappeared from the novel as ‘digressions’: from the story of the nun Gertrude, who has become a criminal, and from that of the ointment smearers Guglielmo Piazza and Giangiacomo Mora, who die tortured deaths as scapegoats for the plague that had broken out in Milan. Although the analogies between the untori and Renzo, Gertrude and Lucia are obvious, the novel has rarely been read systematically and as a whole against the background of this legal framework. One exception is Giovanni Macchia, who sees in the two judicial cases a “sottofondo” of the novel: L’ombra di due processi si agita perennemente nel sottofondo dell’inspirazione manzoniana, quello di Gertrude e quello degli untori. Il primo investiva il problema dell’educazione famigliare, il secondo l’amministrazione della giustizia e i mezzi da essa impiegati. Nel primo c’è all’origine il sesso, l’eros, che non si può sopprimere ma solo educare, nel secondo c’è il problema della propagazione del male. Da una parte il convegno, dall’altra la tortura. Nel contrasto in cui egli venne a trovarsi, trascinato da storie particolari che giudicava necessarie e che prendevano sempre più spazio nello svolgimento del romanzo, questi due episodi furono i più tormentati nella tormentatissima storia dei Promessi Sposi.37

Macchia compares the cases involving love and cruelty to jewel boxes, set apart from the novel like a sanctuary and kept inside. In his view, they explain the fundamentally digressive and centrifugal character of the novel. In contrast, these judicial cases are to be taken as the starting point for reading the main plotline affixed by the novel. The point, in other words, is to make the marriage fiction, devalorized again and again as a fairy tale and anti-novel, appear differently through the ‘jewel boxes’ of the legal cases. The marginalized legal cases are less about eroticism than about a violence of jurisprudence that decides the subject. Gertrude’s story and the Colonna Infame mirror– each as historiographically authenticated cases– in negative inversion the miraculous happy endings of Lucia and Renzo. While Gertrude and the Salbers becomethe victims and scapegoats of a problematic jurisprudence in different ways, the fictional novel protagonists Lucia and Renzo for once escape the eternal scapegoating mechanism of history. Juridically formulated, the civil marriage promise of Renzo and Lucia corresponds to a penal duplication in the stories of Gertrude and the ointment smearers. With them is revealed the legal-critical  Giorgio De Rienzo, Per amore di Lucia, Milan: Rusconi 1985.  Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Between Men. English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire, NewYork: Columbia University Press 1985. 37  Giovanni Macchia, Tra Don Giovanni e don Rodrigo, Milan: Adelphi 1989, p.44. 35 36

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reservation that the narrator harbours against all earthly – be it ecclesiastical or secular– jurisdiction, and thus also against all marriage legislation. Just as Lucia’s fate resembles Gertrude’s in crucial respects, Renzo narrowly escapes the charge of smearing ointments in Milan, on the basis of which Piazza and Mora are tortured to death. Thus the tracing of the path Renzo takes must begin with the Storia della Colonna Infame. At the same time, this pays tribute to a hypothesis repeatedly formulated in research and based on statements by Manzoni himself: that the Promessi sposi and the Colonna Infame essentially belong together and should not actually be published separately from one another.38 The fact that reception has nevertheless remained largely separate– and especially in Germany, where there is still no edition containing both texts– is due on the one hand to the fact that the novel had already become famous by the 1825–1827 edition without Colonna Infame (even in Germany, where the first translations were based on this edition!), and on the other hand to the fact that the text published in 1840–1842 as an appendix to the Promessi sposi caused irritation among the public. Readers had expected another novel rather than the legal-historical reappraisal of a judicial case, and certainly not one that was already considered reappraised at that time.39

 Cf. the commentary in: Manzoni, I Promessi Sposi, ed. Chiari/Ghisalberti, p.831.  In Italy, after a subliminal to negative reception in the nineteenth century (mostly illustrated with a passage from Manzoni’s letter to Adolphe de Circourt of February 14, 1843, in which he laments a quasi-total disregard of the text by the public), the Colonna Infame is in principle rediscovered only after the Second World War. Giancarlo Vigorelli initiated the Renaissance with his text edition of 1942, accompanied by an (anonymous) preface by Alberto Moravia, which was followed by numerous new editions (some of them brilliant, such as the one of 1973 with the preface by Leonardo Sciascia). Cf. the introductions by Giancarlo Vigorelli and Carla Riccardi in: Alessandro Manzoni, Storia della Colonna Infame, ed. Giancarlo Vigorelli (= vol. 12 of the Edizione Nazionale ed Europea delle Opere di Alessandro Manzoni), Milan: Centro Nazionale Studi Manzoniani 2002, pp. XIII–XXVI and pp. XXIX–LXXIV. In Germany the renaissance of the text takes place, unfortunately, so far almost only under the aegis of legal history: Here, first of all, the out-of-print translation (based on the anonymous translation of 1843 and transferred by Wolfgang Boerner), but with Sciascia’s excellent preface, is to be mentioned: Alessandro Manzoni, The Pillar of Shame. Preface by Leonardo Sciascia, Munich: dtv klassik 1990 (1988). Thomas Vormbaum revised and reissued it in 2008, together with Verri’s Osservazioni sulla tortura and two commentaries by Ezequiel Malarino and Helmut C.Jacobs: id. (ed.), Plague, Torture and Pillar of Shame. Der Miländer Prozess wegen “Pestschmierereien” in Rechtskritik und Literatur, Berlin: Berliner Wissenschafts-Verlag 2008. Since 2012 there is the new translation, after which is also translated here: Alessandro Manzoni, History of the Pillar of Shame. Translated from the Italian by Burkhart Kroeber. With a foreword by Umberto Eco and an afterword by Michael Stolleis, Mainz: Dieterich’scheVeragsbuchhandlung 2012– As necessary as a new translation of the text was and as successful as it is in comparison to the old one, the new edition nevertheless continues the old editorial malaise in the German-language reception: what conceptually belongs together is separated. 38 39


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Storia della Colonna Infame: Intertextual Self-Assertion The Storia della Colonna Infame accompanies Manzoni’s novel project from the beginning. At the end of the chapter four, volume four of Fermo e Lucia, the narrator announces it as an extra appendix and brings it about as Appendice storica su la colonna infame, in order not to digress too much from the main plot, but at the same time to be able to integrate it as an essential part of the history of the time.40 The 1825–1827 edition lacks the appendix, but Manzoni revises the text just as he revised the Promessi sposi, publishing it for the first time under the title Storia della Colonna Infame as its appendix in the definitive edition of 1840/1842, illustrated by Francesco Gonin. Here the last illustration of the Promessi sposi – Agnese with grandchild, Renzo and Lucia at the table of their house in the new village – is directly opposed to the one showing the memorial erected on the site of the burned house of the alleged ointment smearer Giangiacomo Mora in Milan. And it is with the Colonna Infame that the novel gets its final word: “Fine.” With this text, Manzoni places himself in a great Enlightenment tradition, but also in a tradition that is extremely complex, both familially and intertextually: Right at the beginning he refers to Pietro Verri’s (1728–1797) treatise Osservazioni sulla tortura (1777/1804), which was written in close exchange with Manzoni’s maternal grandfather, Cesare Beccaria (1738–1794), author of the penal classic Dei delitti e delle pene (1764). Given the speculation that Pietro Verri’s brother Giovanni was Manzoni’s biological father, Manzoni’s writing would have referred not only to his famous grandfather but also to his biological uncle.41 The Pillar of Shame, the monument erected in 1630 to the shame of those condemned as plague-smearers, had only been demolished in 1778. Beccaria and Verri wrote their texts against torture not only at a time when the memory of the events was still alive, but also in a nation state– the Duchy of Milan– in which torture was still the valid law. What was at stake was a humanist-­ enlightenment reform of the judiciary, to be achieved above all by setting it apart from a barbaric past. On the one hand, Pietro Verri’s Osservazioni settle accounts with Beccaria, whom Verri accused of having taken all the credit for Dei delitti e delle pene for himself, although he had been instrumental in the work’s creation. On the other hand, as the late date of publication shows, they turn politically and privately against the father, Gabriele Verri, who, as senator of the city of Milan, had flatly rejected a recommendation from Vienna to abolish torture in Milan. Out of consideration and respect for his father and the Senate, and also out of fear of

 “Passare questi giudizj sotto silenzio sarebbe ommettere una parte troppo essenziale della storia di quel tempo disastroso; il raccontarli ci condurrebbe o ci trarrebbe troppo fuori del nostro sentiero.” (FL IV, IV, 585) “One would omit too essential a part of the history of that calamitous time if one passed over these judgments with silence; their recounting would [on the other hand] lead us too far from our way, or from it.” 41  Cf. for example the biographical note in: Alessandro Manzoni, I Promessi Sposi. Storia della colonna infame, ed. Angelo Stella and Cesare Repossi, Turin: Einaudi-Gallimard (Biblioteca della Pléiade) 1995, p. XLV. 40

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financial or hereditary consequences, Verri refrained from publishing his Osservazioni.42 When Manzoni again turned to the trial records in the early 1820s, after the abolition of torture, he dealt, on the one hand, with a grandfather who had denied his daughter Giulia a free choice of husband and thus, in a sense, denied him, Manzoni, paternity; on the other hand, he revises the triumph of Verri’s Osservazioni sulla tortura, in that after the latter’s euphoric-enlightenment demolition of the pillar of shame, he re-erects it, as it were, as a literary monument, Storia della Colonna Infame.43 The main question raised by the text, that of the responsibility of the judges, thus refers not only to a historical case, but also to its representation. Why would the novel be missing an essential part of the history of the time without the Colonna Infame? A reading of both legal cases (of the untori and of the nun Marianna de Leyva) will show that Manzoni is betting on the existence of historical misjudgments in order to set his ultimately unconceivable novel against them. The case of the fictional Gertrude is similar to that of Salber: with her, too, the narrator shows how an averagely rational person is driven to abysmally evil actions. Both cases are historical court cases: While Piazza and Mora are brought before secular courts, in Gertrude’s case Cardinal Federigo Borromeo, as a church judge, pronounces (canonical) law. The narrator refers to the pillar-of-infamy case at one point as an “orrenda vittoria dell’errore contro la verità” (CI, 683; “terrible victory of error over truth,” p.25). Gertrude’s case could be evaluated in reverse: at the very end, though virtually eliminated from the text, truth does triumph here through repentance and conversion after error and crime. But who is the victim and who is the perpetrator in these historical legal cases? Is Gertrude more or less to blame for her passions than the judges of the two so-called ointment smearers? Or the other way around: do the tortured and agonizingly killed ointment smearers represent greater victims of history than the one the nun brings at the end when she is walled up alive to atone for her crime? In and as the shadows of the protagonists, to whom poetic justice is done at the end, both digressions show the victim’s side of history, a victim’s side that as soon as one turns to it however, it becomes uncertain, a history whose executions of justice are called into question, even deconstructed. Thus, not coincidentally, Stolleis writes in the epilogue to the German translation of Colonna Infame that Manzoni’s elucidation is not simply aimed at a critique of torture, but “at a much deeper problem of every criminal process, indeed of the application of law in general.”44 Regardless of the novel of the Promessi sposi, a legal-historical relevance of the text lies in the fact that it illustrates how individual failure is always to be expected in the administration of justice. The case thus demonstrates, Stolleis argues, that criminal procedure cannot function without institutional and procedural processes by which  Cf. Carla Riccardi, “Introduzione”, in: Manzoni, Storia della Colonna Infame, ed. Vigorelli, pp. LVIII-LXVII. 43  There is talk of a “ménage à trois” in: Loredana Garlati, “Guilty of a Crime that Didn’t Exist”. Der Prozess gegen die Mailänder “Pestschmierer” in der Deutung Pietro Verris und Alessandro Manzoni, Berlin: LIT Verlag 2013, p.21. 44  Stolleis, Afterword, in: Manzoni, Geschichte der Schandsäule, p.196. 42


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the judiciary is controlled.45 The Colonna Infame is, as Renzo Negri writes in the introduction to a 1974 edition of the text, an investigative novel, un romanzo inchiesta, in which Manzoni puts the judges of a trial on trial. Taking up Negri’s genre designation, Leonardo Sciascia draws attention not only to the fact that there had never been anything like it in Italy until Manzoni’s text, but also to the fact that this ‘genre’ was still causing ‘silence’ in contemporary literature.46 The Colonna Infame, as will become clear in what follows, brings to a head the juridical dimension of the Promessi sposi; as a process of trial, it is both a juridical climax and a reflection of Manzoni’s juridical writing.47 The application of law appears here not only as a problem of criminal procedure, but as one of literature, of philology. In seven chapters, the narrator recapitulates the trial of 1630, in which Guglielmo Piazza, Commissario della Sanità, and the barber Giangiacomo Mora are sentenced to death as so-called ointment smearers, untori. Because the case was no longer unknown to the public since Verri’s Osservazioni sulla tortura, the narrator justifies his new treatment in the introduction by saying that he does not want to denounce the means of torture as Verri did, but rather to prove the individual guilt of the judges who, against their better judgment, made two innocent people guilty.48 Manzoni describes the case more or less chronologically: the first chapter begins with June 21, 1630, the day when a simple woman named Caterina Rosa observes a man in Via della Vetra de’ Cittadini who, walking close to the wall, seems to be writing something on a piece of paper. Upon this observation, Caterina Rosa testifies during questioning, it occurred to her that this might be one of the infamous plague daubers.49 Starting from this circumstantial evidence, Manzoni recapitulates in chapters III to VI the trial interrogations from the arrest of the first main suspect, Piazza, to the carrying out of the sentences, with his attention on exposing the perverse logic of the interrogations. In the course of the investigation, the barber Giangiacomo Mora becomes the second main accused.

 Ibid., pp.205–207.  Renzo Negri, “Il romanzo-inchiesta del Manzoni” (1972), in: Elena Sala Di Felice (ed.), Il punto su: Manzoni, Rome: Editori Laterza 1989, pp.197–200; Leonardo Sciascia, “Preface by Leonardo Sciascia”, in: Manzoni, Die Schandsäule, p.19. 47  “[V]irtually the most important book for an analysis of Manzonian legal thought,” Loredana Garlati comments on Manzoni’s Colonna Infame (“Guilty of a Crime That Did Not Exist,” p.21). 48  If the Colonna Infame is often referred to as the historiographical counterpart to the novel, especially in the literature on the Promessi Sposi, this must be qualified by the fact that it is in principle just as little historiographical in the sense of objectively representing facts as the Promessi Sposi are. Michael Bernsen therefore qualifies Manzoni’s writing, rightly contradicting the view of a split or bifurcation of the novel (into history and fiction), as “historical myth research”. Cf. Michael Bernsen, Stories and History. Alessandro Manzoni’s I promessi sposi, Berlin: LIT Verlag 2014, pp.177–195. As a general characterization of Manzoni’s poetics, however, this term is not suitable, because it reduces its claim to particular epistemological interests. 49  “All’hora, soggiunge, mi viene in pensiero se a caso fosse un poco uno de quelli che, a’ giorni passati, andauano ongendo le muraglie.” (CI, 685) (“And then, she added, it occurred to me that he might have been one of those who, a’ days past, were busy daubing walls.” p.27) 45 46

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The interrogations bring to light the following hair-raising story of lies: The health commissioner Piazza, the barber Mora and some other accomplices had, in order to enrich themselves, smeared an ointment made of human excrement, lye and saliva from plague victims on the walls of the houses in order to spread the plague, on behalf of Don Giovanni Gaetano Padilla, son of the Milanese castle commander (“figlio del comandante del castello di Milano”, CI, 682), who was tellingly acquitted. It is no coincidence that a capitano di guistizia, of all people, who is responsible for the care of plague victims in Milan during the plague period, and a barber, who sells remedies and ointments on the side, were accused. Both benefit ex officio from the plague: one because he receives his professional assignment in the first place because of the appearance of the plague, the other by supplementing his wages with additional ointments. Accordingly, Piazza would have persuaded Mora to stir the deadly ointment in order to make even more profit from the plague.50 After the arrest of the two main suspects on 22 June and 26 June 1630, the infernal sentence (“[qu]ell’infernale] sentenza”, CI, 762) is carried out on 2 August: the throats of the guilty are cut after long hours of agony. On the way to the place of execution they are maltreated with red-hot tongs; they are tied to a wheel, their bones are broken, and their right hands are chopped off. The bodies are burned, the ashes thrown into the river, and the pillar of shame is erected on the site of Mora’s house as a sign of remembrance.

The Narrator astheJudges’ Judge The interest that Manzoni has in the historical court case is clearly expressed in the introduction and in explicit contrast to Verri. Instead of the Enlightenment-critical goal of arguing against the practice of torture, Manzoni is concerned– more (negatively) anthropologically, if you will– with proving the innocence of the condemned and, more crucially, with proving a guilt on the part of the judges, about whom he writes in the third chapter: ‘non cercavano una verità, ma volevano una confessione’ (CI, 710).51 He criticizes Verri’s textual intention to use the trial as an argument against torture, not as wrong, but as almost too superficial. He, Manzoni, is concerned with ‘more general remarks’ (‘osservazioni più generali’, CI, 678), in order to be able to draw ‘a useful lesson’ (‘un utile insegnamento’, CI 678) from the case. Such a justification seemed all the more necessary since, as mentioned, the trial of  Cf. CI, 747: Mora “disse in quell’interrogatorio, che la bava de’ morti di peste l’aveva avuta dal commissario, che questo gli aveva proposto il delitto, e che il motivo del fare e dell’accettare una proposta simile era che, ammalandosi, con quel mezzo, molte persone, avrebbero guadagnato molto tutt’e due: uno, nel suo posto di commissario; l’altro, con lo spaccio del preservativo.” (“Now the unfortunate Mora said in that interrogation […] that he had received the saliva of the plague-dead from the Commissary Piazza, that the latter had proposed the crime to him, and that the motive for accepting such a proposal had been that if many people fell ill through this remedy, they would both have made a great deal of money, the one in his position as Sanitary Commissioner, the other by selling the preservative.” p.124) 51  “For they did not seek a truth, they merely wanted a confession.” (p.67) 50


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the Pillars of Infamy around 1840 was already sufficiently known through Verri’s Osservazioni, but also the Promessi sposi themselves. Moreover, in 1839, a few months before its publication and with explicit reference to Manzoni’s novel and his announcement of another work on the subject, Cesare Cantù had published the original trial records in Italian.52 That the intention of proving the guilt of the judges in this case was risky and problematic is conceded by Manzoni himself when he relativizes the reasonableness and usefulness of his work. After all, these depended– unfortunately – more on the actual execution than on the stated intention (“ma questa [l’utilità], pur troppo, dipende molto più dall’esecuzione che dall’intento”, CI, 677). He actually points to a fundamental incompatibility of this intention (‘intento’) with the execution (‘esecuzione’) insofar as the Colonna Infame presents a critique of judgment in the rhetorical procedure of judging.53 Manzoni’s text is structured– to a certain extent– by the intention to prove the judges’ guilt. Thus, in the second chapter, an excurse that moves away from the trial records, there is a legal-historical reflection on the legal practice and interpretation of law in Milan at the time. While Verri sees the judicial system of the time as a major cause of the cruel practice of torture, Manzoni justifies the Italian criminal jurisprudence of the time in a meticulous reading of the relevant medieval and early modern sources.54 He cites relevant passages from the criminalistic treatises on torture by a Prosper Farinaccio, Francesco dal Bruno, Angelo d’Arezzo, Guido da Suzara, Baldo, Parida dal Pozzo, Giulio Claro, etc., etc., in order to prove against Verri that these did not grant judges freedom or arbitrariness in the use of torture, but– on the contrary– contributed to making a “scienza” out of the interpretation of the law, which, at least

 Cesare Cantù, Processo originale degli untori nella peste del M.DC.XXX, Milan: Perelli & Mariani 1839. (Cf. Manzoni, Colonna Infame, ed. Vigorelli, p.11 (footnote 1) and the facsimile of the first page of the introduction to the “Umanissimo Lettori”, ibid. after p.502.) Manzoni’s most important sources for the Colonna Infame are, as he explains in the introduction, a print of the trial files that the co-defendant (and acquitted) Padilla had prepared for his defense, as well as the copy of these files that Pietro Verri had also used for his Osservazioni (cf. CI, 681f.). 53  Cf. Cornelia Vismann, Thomas Weitin (eds.), Urteilen/Entscheiden, Munich: Fink 2006. 54  Cf. CI, 696: “‘È certo’, dice l’ingegnoso ma preoccupato scrittore [Verri; D.S.],‘che niente sta scritto nelle leggi nostre, nè sulle persone che possono mettersi alla tortura, nè sulle occasioni nelle quali possano applicarvisi, nè sul modo di tormentare […]; tutto questo strazio si fa sopra gli uomini coll’autorità del giudice, unicamente appoggiato alle dottrine dei criminalisti citati.’/Ma in quelle leggi nostre stava scritta la tortura […].” (“‘It is certain,’ declares the witty but not unprejudiced author [Verri; D.S.], ‘that in our laws nothing is written about torture, neither about the persons who may be subjected to it, nor about the occasions on which it may be used, nor about the manner of torture […]. All these tortures are inflicted on people by the authority of the judge, based solely on the teachings of the criminal lawyers cited.’/ But our laws knew torture very well […].” P. 44f.) 52

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theoretically, could and should have had a moderating influence on judges.55 With this second chapter, Manzoni sets the philological foundation for the subsequent “applicazione” (CI, 707; “application,” p.64) of the law to the case of the plague smearers. Unlike Verri, and unlike he himself had done in his first version (of 1823) of his Colonna Infame, In order to present the reader with an immediate and drastic demonstration of the absurdity of torture as a means of establishing the truth, Manzoni’s account of the interrogations of Piazza (in Chapter III) and Mora (in Chapter IV) does not merely allow the trial records themselves to speak;. rather, he reads the trial records in a micrological comparison of the proceedings with what contemporary legal scholars (Manzoni calls them “interpreti”) had to say about the use of torture. The consistent finding is that the judges were guilty of the illegality of the procedure. In the argumentation, a theoretical legality of torture is thus accepted– a scandal that Manzoni is sometimes bitterly accused of by his critics– but this only in order to be able to treat the problem of torture in a more differentiated way at the same time. Loredana Garlati sums this up: “He thus blesses one part of the representatives of the forensic world, but fiercely condemns another: the judges.”56 The judges’ accusation is fierce and is repeated again and again by Manzoni: they have wilfully convicted innocent people against their better knowledge and made them guilty. They should have known better, Manzoni reads from the commentaries on the law, and they did know better. And yet, as we read, we are struck by how the text remains peculiarly undecided between individualizing and anonymizing the judges. It has also already been pointed out that the judges are not mentioned by name, nor is a distinction made between the deciding judges in the narrow sense and ‘fellow’ investigators.57 Manzoni not only carefully avoids identifying the individuality of his defendants, but also tracing those potential individual or psychological motivations that might have led to the wrong judgments. (Although this is  This second chapter is particularly eloquent of Verri’s sentence from § 13: “Vennero poi il Claro, il Girlando, il Tabor, il Giovannini, il Zangherio, l’Oldekop, il Capzovio, il Gandino, il Farinaccio, il Gornez, il Menocchio, il Bruno, il Brunoro, il Carerio, il Boerio, il Cumano, il Cepolla, il Bossio, il Bocerio, il Casonnio, il Cirillo, il Bonacossi, il Brusato, il Follerio, l’Iodocio, il Damoderio, e l’altra folla di oscurissimi scrittori celebri presso i criminalisti, i quali, se avessero esposto le crudeli loro dottrine e la metodica descrizione de’ rafinati loro spasimi in lingua volgare e con uno stile di cui la rozezza e la barbarie non allontanasse le persone sensate e colte dall’esaminarli, non potevano essere risguardati se non coll’occhio medesimo col quale si rimira il carnefice, cioè con orrore e iniominia.” (Verri, Osservazioni sulla tortura (1777/1804), in Manzoni, Storia della Colonna Infame, ed. Vigorelli, pp.415–488; here: p.477.) “Then came Clarus, Girlando, Tabor, Giovannini, Zangerius, Oldekoop, Carpzov, Gandinus, Farinacius, Gornez, Manocchio, Brunus, Brunoro, Carerius, Boerius, Cumanus, Capela, Bossius, Bocevius Casonius, Cirillus, Bonacossi, Brussato, Follarius, Jodocius, Damhouder, and what may be the names of a host of authors as obscure as they are famous in crime, who, if they had written their ghastly doctrines, and their refined technical descriptions of the methods of torture, in the vernacular, and in a style whose crudity and barbarity would not deter sentient and educated men from reading them, would look upon them with the same eye as the torturer, namely, with horror and contempt.” (Trans. Vormbaum, in id. (ed.), Pest, Folter und Schandsäule, p.58.) 56  Garlati, “Guilty of a Crime that Did Not Exist,” p.37. 57  Cf. Ermanno Paccagnini, “Nota critico-filologica: la Colonna Infame”, in: Manzoni, Fermo e Lucia, ed. Nigro/Paccagnini, p. XLII. 55


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precisely how one actually imagines an argumentative structure whose aim is to prove individual guilt– and especially in the case of Manzoni, who knows how to dig into historical sources). Meanwhile, the judges remain anonymous ‘they’, the judges: ‘que’ giudici’ (CI, 679; ‘the judge’, p.18), ‘que’ magistrati’ (CI, 679; ‘those judges’, p.19), ‘l’iniquo esaminatore’ (CI, 711; ‘the malignant interrogator’, p.70), etc. Piazza, who was arrested first, is interrogated on the same day, it is said almost vaguely, “dal capitano di giustizia, con l’assistenza d’un auditore, probabilmente quello del tribunale della Sanità” (CI, 690f.; “by the city captain […], in the presence of an auditor, presumably a member of the Board of Health”, p. 36).58 The supreme judicial authority was the Senate; the Capitano di giustizia was responsible for criminal jurisdiction, but he was, however, bound by the governor’s instructions in some cases – such as the promise of immunity from prosecution. His name, Giovan Battist Visconti, is never mentioned by Manzoni. Spinola, the governor, is mentioned in both the Colonna Infame and the Promessi sposi, though, in high irony, in absentia: he was not there because he was busy with the siege of Casale. The indictment thus addresses neither a concrete individual nor a concrete institution– a “corpo”, as it still says in the conclusion of the early version, to which the individual was even more committed then than today. Rather, it addresses an illegal power of the judges, who subjugate the individual where it would have been their duty to do him justice. The interrogations of Piazza and Mora, together with Gertrude’s examination before entering the convent,59 form the black nadir of the promessi sposi: a judging speech-making for the sake of death. Verri’s critique of torture leads Manzoni down paradoxical epistemological paths. On the one hand, he is interested in how ignorance is transformed into power over life and death. He agrees with Verri in principle that it was a crime that did not exist (“un delitto che non c’era,” CI, 679), a crime that was physically and morally impossible (“un delitto, fisicamente e moralmente impossibile,” CI, 677f.). Therein lies precisely the epistemological potential of the case to expose the ultimate unknowability of judgments.60 The unknowability of a judicial decision lies on two levels: ‘On the retrospective level of the course of events, which is up for legal assessment and which the judge does not know. On the prospective level, the  In the first version of the text, Manzoni still speculates (by name) on whether and to what extent a special commission was appointed for the case: Piazza had been interrogated “da una Commissione speciale, non so se istituita in quella circostanza, o prima, per tutti i casi di quel genere, e composta del presidente della Sanità suddetto, dell’auditore del medesimo tribunale, Gaspare Alfieri, e del capitano di giustizia, Giovanbatista Visconti” (cf. Note 22 in: Manzoni, Fermo e Lucia, ed. Nigro/Paccagnini, p. 950). For more on this ad hoc commission and the (power-)political goals associated with it, see Garlati, “Guilty of a Crime that Did Not Exist”, pp.59–61. 59  Her interrogations afterwards– after the discovery of the crime– are significantly omitted from the novel. See below Sect. 3.3: Lucia in the process of sacralization (“Marianna de Leyva alias Geltrude/Gertrude”). 60  From here, one could continue to ask, in terms of the history of criminal law, to what extent the accusation of materially non-existent crimes represents a constant in the history of jurisprudence; however, neither Verri nor Manzoni does this. Neither of them is interested in clarifying whether and to what extent the indictment, seen historically, did not also carry plausibilities. 58

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non-­knowledge consists in the fact that the outcome of the proceedings is unknown and that is as it should be, so as to be able to guarantee the judge’s impartiality.”61 Now, however, Manzoni implies in the case of the judges about the ointment smearers that they did not have precisely this principled necessary non-knowledge. They would have had knowledge where there could be none. The text thus places itself in the midst of a principled paradox of judgment and/or decision: the deprivation of its reason, which in judgment turns into the violence of decision.62 It resolves the paradox by turning the critique (of the violence) of the judgement into a (violent) judgement of the judges. In other words, the rhetorical gesture of accusation performs – before the reader’s eyes – that very violence of judgment which is unmasked in the example of the judges. This raises the question of the violent nature of the narrative of the Promessi Sposi as a whole. Only to a certain extent, not fundamentally, I would argue, does the rhetorical gesture of accusation contrast with the rest of the Promessi sposi and its fiction of narrator and editor, according to which, readers are not to be deprived of a ‘beautiful story’.63 There are only differences of degree between the aesthetic judgment that is to be wrested from the reader and the juridical judgment that is expected of the reader. In both cases, he has to judge the likelihood of narratives (the happy ending of the protagonists and the guilt of the judges, respectively). The Colonna Infame and the Promessi sposi thus illustrate a “coincidence of aesthetics with law in eighteenth-century judgment” that can be understood as a discourse-spanning juridification.64 It is therefore no wonder that the judgments of the texts not only diverge, but are also of different disciplinary provenance. To be sure, Sciascia deserves credit for having recognized the rhetorical paradox and the affirmative potential in all their sharpness. Among the examples that transfer the affectivity of the text back to its author and turn the accusation into a counter-accusation, Fausto Nicolini’s Peste e untori nei “Promessi Sposi” e nella realtà storica (Bari: Laterza 1937) and Franco Cordero’s La fabbrica della peste (Rome/Bari: Laterza 1987) stand out. Nicolini rehabilitates the judges, accusing Manzoni of failing to see through the complex historical-political conditions of the trial. Cordero takes the mimicry even further, accusing Manzoni not only of ahistorical argumentation and ideological (Catholic) bias, but also – ironically –  Cornelia Vismann, Thomas Weitin, “Introduction”, in: This (ed.), Judging/Deciding, pp.7–16; here: p.10. 62  Cf. Jacques Derrida, Force de loi. Le “Fondement mystique de l’autorité”, Paris: Galilée 1994. Also: id., “Donner la mort”, in: Anselm Haverkamp (ed.), Gewalt und Gerechtigkeit. Derrida– Benjamin, Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp 1994, pp.331–445. 63  But already the editor’s fiction of the introduction betrays the fundamental doubts about being able to translate the ‘beautiful story’ into the right language for the readers: “Nell’atto però di chiudere lo scartafaccio, per riporlo, mi sapeva male che una storia così bella dovesse rimanersi tuttavia sconosciuta; perchè, in quanto storia, può essere che al lettore ne paia altrimenti, ma a me era parsa bella, come dico; molto bella.” (PS, Introduzione, 5) (“But at the same moment that I was about to fold up the old Scharteke and put it away again, I regretted that so beautiful a story should remain forever unknown; for as for the story as such-the reader may find it otherwise, but I found it beautiful, what do I say, beautiful.” p.10) 64  Cf. Vismann, Weitin, “Introduction”, in: Dies. (ed.), Urteilen/Entscheiden, p.16.



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disqualifying the text as a badly made work of fiction.65 One can see from this an extremely considerable contagion potential of Colonna Infame, both in terms of production and reception aesthetics. I would like to relate this generalizing movement of judgment and condemnation here to its metapoetic and self-reflexive implications. For not least, the condemnation of judges raises the question of the authority of the one who passes this sentence.

Metapoetics: Logic andRhetoric ofImprobability As mentioned, Manzoni’s point in reading the interrogation protocols is to show (or denounce) how ignorance produces untruth or lies. This is, in a sense, the reverse procedure of an (Aristotelian) doctrine of poetry that seeks to derive the probable from ignorance. And in the same way, with poetologically highly charged semantics, the reader is presented with Manzoni’s interrogation material. The third chapter of the ‘application’ (‘applicazione’) begins with the statement that in their interrogations, the inquirers were not looking for the truth but for the justification of already established lies. They wanted to begin with torture– against the law, which imposed strict limitations on its use: “Vollero appunto costoro cominciar dalla tortura. […] È che non cercavano una verità, ma volevano una confessione” (CI, 709f.).66 In this perspective, Piazza’s very first statement after his arrest, that he knew nothing about the smearings, already seals his later sentence, for it allows the interrogators to recognize precisely in it a potential lie– all of Milan knew, after all, about the ointments on the walls – and to threaten torture: “[…] che altrimente, come cose inuerisimili, si metterà alla corda, per hauer la verità di queste inuerisimilitudini” (CI, 711).67 Manzoni reads the trial of injustice in a dialectic of probability and improbability, decided from the outset in favor of the strongest, with the sole aim of creating a semblance of justice by means of confessions. Again and again, in his reading of the interrogation transcripts, he pauses at those passages where he encounters absurd circumstantial evidence– ‘cose che in un romanzo sarebbero tacciate d’inverisimili’ (CI, 686; ‘loud things that would be considered improbable in a novel’, p.29)– or where ‘improbability’ (partly highlighted by italics in the text) is misused as an indication of guilt.68 The confessions forced by torture become negative examples of free, if not true, then at least probable (and in terms of Manzoni’s writing: ‘poetic’) speech acts. Worse, the initially coerced lie expands  That the 1987 BUR edition of the Colonna Infame is then introduced by Franco Cordero of all people– in the form of a scathing critique and veritable vituperatio – can only be noted with surprise. (Alessandro Manzoni, Storia della Colonna Infame, introduced by Franco Cordero and annotated by Gianmarco Gaspari, Milan: Biblioteca Universale Rizzoli 1987). 66  “They actually wanted to start torture. […] Because they were not looking for a truth, they merely wanted a confession.” (p.67) 67  “[…] for otherwise it would be so improbable that he would be hung on the rope to learn the truth about these improbabilities.” (p.70) 68  See, for example, CI, I. ch.: p.691; III. ch.: pp.710, 711, 713, 720, 724; IV.Chap.: pp.733, 739, 741, 743, 751, 752, 753. 65

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into a monstrous web of lies in which slander actually produces guilty people: “Così, con la loro impunità, e con la loro tortura, riuscivan que’ giudici, non solo a fare atrocemente morir degl’innocenti, ma, per quanto dipendeva da loro, a farli morir colpevoli.” (CI, 762)69 The probable fiction, in contrast to this improbable one, thus acquires the merit that it does not produce culprits, does not misjudge, but at best represents a true judgment qua beautiful appearance (and can be imitated as such). The ‘ugly appearance’ as which Manzoni allows the trial records to speak, on the other hand, reveals– in Enlightenment terms– the logic of prejudice, or– religiously– a power of evil. If Verri’s trial story focuses on those moments in which physical torture leads to untruth, Manzoni searches for the incoherencies and logical fractures that make up the prosecution’s web of lies.70 This allows him to show in contrast to Verri that the abolition of torture does not eradicate wrongful convictions, but that torture and interrogation are interrelated, in which physical violence is replaced by verbal and imaginary violence.71 Thus, in addition to torture, Manzoni’s central argument against judges becomes the promise of impunity. Again, he insists on the illegality of this promise, which should have been ordered by the Prince or the (absent) Governor Spinola alone. It was only because it was given in a non-official, non-written form that it could be overridden in the end.72 But it is this form of moral torture– this seduction– that leads Piazza to actively lie and to the idea of bringing Giangiacomo Mora into play, who, as a barber, also marketed an ointment against the plague, among other things.73 Volevan dal Piazza una storia d’unguento, di concerti, di via della Vetra: quelle circostanze così recenti gli serviron di materia per comporne una: se si può chiamar comporre l’attaccare a molte circostanze reali un’invenzione incompatibile con esse. (CI, 722 f.)74

Manzoni suggests the ambivalent metaphor of smearing ointment for the confession logic of the trial: the judges wanted an ointment story and Piazza delivered it– even if the invenzione would thus become incompatible with the components in  “Thus those judges, with their promise of impunity and their torture, succeeded not only in letting innocent people die horribly, but also, as far as it lay in their power, in letting them die guilty.” (p.148) 70  “The list of irregularities drawn up by Manzoni is considerable and, on closer inspection, forms the supporting structure of the chapters of the Pillar of Shame […].” (Garlati, “Guilty of a Crime that Did Not Exist,” p.73.) 71  Cf. Thomas Weitin (ed.), Wahrheit und Gewalt. The Discourse of Torture in Europe and the USA, Bielefeld: transcript 2010. 72  Cf. Chapter III, CI, 718 etseq. 73  Which was a professional offense, because the manufacture of such means was reserved for pharmacists and physicians. In this respect, Mora shows a consciousness of wrongdoing when he is arrested and his house is searched, which is taken by the investigators as circumstantial evidence of the crime. (Cf. CI, 87–89.) 74  “The judges wanted to hear from Piazza a story that was about ointment, about dating, and about the Via della Vetra: Here were the facts out of which he could stir one up and put it before them-if you can call attaching an invention plucked out of the air to a multitude of individual circumstances.” (p.87f.) 69


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the end. Significantly, Kroeber translates the putting together of the ingredients (‘comporre’) as ‘stirring together’. The story, the narrative of the fictitious, unprovoked crime, substitutes as an arbitrary, contagious storia for the literal plague or its potential causative agents. It is not the individual actors’ becoming complicit or their making complicit of the other that is in the foreground here, but rather an original, inverted desire for (un)truth, which Manzoni seeks and desperately accuses in the language of the judges: they want confessions instead of truth. What Foucault described as a historical transition from pre-modern to modern disciplinary techniques, Manzoni demonstrates– as an interlocking of physical and moral-imaginary torture– at the site of justice itself. He shows how unjust judges manage to make an ever-­increasing improbability appear as the probability of guilt and the truth of justice. Thus, at one point in the first version of Colonna Infame, “È negli esaminatori sempre la stessa instancabile avidità di fatti, di spiegazioni, di particolari, negli esaminati lo stesso stento, la stessa contenzione dell’inventare.”75 The whole supposed plot, the ‘crime’ or the ‘reason’ for the conviction is unmasked as a blackmailed, illegal confession. It is laborious to filter out this ‘plot’, only roughly outlined above, on the basis of Manzoni’s meticulous interpretations of the interrogation, firstly because Manzoni could presuppose it in the reader, but above all because the point is precisely to expose it as the aberration of a misguided circumstantial interpretation. The logic of infection that Manzoni identifies in the interrogations represents a variant of the topos of poetry as pharmakon. In the case of the plague smear trial, instead of curing or redressing a crime, the poison of fiction leads to a fatal independence. The first chapter begins with Caterina Rosa’s observation of what appears to be a writer (!). The second chapter digresses into the criminal justice literature, which, had it been followed, could have prevented the judicial scandal. Chapters III and IV set out how Piazza’s (III) and Mora’s (IV) confessions were purposefully directed under torture and announcement of impunity, but also led to two contrary statements, which are ‘solved’ in Chapter V with the invention of the “persona grande” (CI, 757; “the highly placed person”, p.140) Padilla as the head of a conspiracy through further interrogation. His acquittal a good year after the death penalty imposed on Piazza and Mora (and several others) is then, in the sixth chapter, retrospective proof of the innocence of the condemned and– by implication– of the guilt of the condemners. At the latest with the acquittal of the “persona grande” Padilla, son of the castle’s captain, the prosecution proves to be a single construct of lies (“inganno”, CI, 774). Thus, the logic of injustice is broken and a (historical) probability (of the innocence of the accused) imposes itself. However, by emphasizing that the power of the superior, not a willful decision by the judges, led to this breaking of the spiral of violence, Manzoni in a sense denies a way out of the juridical logic of decisiveness at a point where the possibility of differentiation would

 Alessandro Manzoni, Appendice storica su la colonna infame, in id., Tutte le opere, vol. II/3: Fermo e Lucia, ed. Alberto Chiari and Fausto Ghisalberti, Milan: Mondadori 1964, pp.671–749, here: p.699. (“In the investigators there is always the same tireless greed for facts, explanations, individual circumstances, in the interrogated the same effort to invent”). 75

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have existed.76 Rather, the falsity of the judgment is suspended in order to be able to transfer it from the law– morally philosophically– to other domains, to historiography and poetry, in the final, seventh chapter. In a cursory reading of historical works documenting the case, Manzoni settles scores, as it were, with hypocritical, opportunistic, and copyist historiographers up to Verri, who finally rehabilitated the condemned, in order to quote at the very end, with the same inquisitorial intent, the verses of Giuseppe Parini (1729–1799), in which he exhorts citizens to avoid the ominous plague column in Milan:O buoni cittadin, lungi, che il suolo Miserabile infame non v’infetti. (CI, 784)77 As an invective against his person, this quotation from Parini, with which Manzoni concludes the Colonna Infame, has provoked criticism among literary scholars– quasi analogous to that against the judges on the part of legal history. It has been objected that Parini was by no means as uncritical of the practice of criminal law in his time as is suggested here.78 The crucial point, however, seems to me to be that self-accusation and the accusation of others are not mutually exclusive. Parini warns in verse against the dreadful column; and once again the metaphor of contagion appears: One should avoid its wicked soil, he says, lest one be infected by it. In quoting the lines, Manzoni now asks this very question: whether he has allowed himself to be infected by the wickedness of the crime in and with his writing, or whether it was right to go ‘there’. Quite literally, the admonition refers to the fact that Manzoni had, in fact, outsourced the Colonna Infame in the first version of the novel (of 1825/1827) and now planned to include it again for the 1840 edition.79

Legal Poetology: Earthly Criminal Law andMarriage Law Who are “these judges” (“que’ guidici”)? Why are they so harshly condemned? They remain nameless, as already explained above– innominati like the great tyrant Innominato of the Promessi sposi – and yet they are accused not as a collective or  In the place of the possibility of fathoming Padilla’s acquittal, Manzoni piles up questions for almost a page– along the lines of ‘Did the judges remember at that moment that …’– the rhetorical function of which is to bring the cruelty of the verdict to light once again: “Il Padilla fu assolto, non si sa quando per l’appunto, ma sicuramente più d’un anno dopo, poichè l’ultime sue difese furono presentate nel maggio del 1632. E, certo, l’assolverlo non fu grazia; ma i giudici, s’avvidero che, con questo, dichiaravano essi medesimi ingiuste tutte le loro condanne?” (CI, p.773) (“Padilla was acquitted, it is not known exactly when, but certainly more than a year after, for his last plea was presented in May 1632. And certainly this acquittal was not an act of grace, but did the judges notice that by it they declared all their former convictions unjust?” p.165). 77  “Ye good citizens, away from here, lest this/ wretched wicked soil infect you!” (p.181) 78  Cf. the commentary by Ermanno Paccagnini in Manzoni, Fermo e Lucia, ed. Nigro/Paccagnini, pp.1084–1086. 79  Verri’s Osservazioni are then celebrated as a work finally liberated from prejudice, though not without the bitter reminder that they too were published only posthumously due to their author’s personal and careerist considerations. By noting their lateness, Manzoni also brings an implicit self-accusation into play for the Colonna Infame, but on the other hand ensures that his text is still authorized by himself (cf. CI, 785). 76


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corporation (“corpo”) but as individuals. Manzoni makes them an example of a corrupt passion-addiction of the human will, as he explains precisely in the introduction.80 This refers at the same time to the moralistic and the Jansenistic background, ever hotly discussed in Manzoni scholarship, against which the Promessi sposi and Manzoni’s entire poetics must be read.81 Manzoni shares with the French moralists of the seventeenth century an extremely skeptical view of human passions and of poetry as the realm that acts on these passions.82 However, it is precisely in relation to poetry that he arrives at an evaluation opposed to that of Port-Royal’s solitaires. He recognizes a poetic potential for action in them which lies beyond all logical, rational, or historical reason. From this, however, he does not draw the consequence of making poetry the forbidden opposite to the Holy Scripture, which per se obstructs a true knowledge of reality. Rather, he relies on making fiction controllable in order to make its potential effect, which is based on intuition and identification (and which insofar includes and does not exclude passions), usable for knowledge. The novel becomes a probability realm of gracious action and divine order of salvation.83 Manzoni’s Jansenist pessimism, it can be roughly said, is directed less at the individual than at the social and collective: it is only in interaction, in social action, that passions are perverted, personal wills broken and subjected to a social, ‘earthly’ injustice. On the level of the individual, Manzoni would be more likely to belong to a Jesuit-Molinist side that defends a freedom of the will

 In this respect, the accusations of (legal) historical incorrectness come to nothing from the outset or are implicitly always aimed at something else. In this respect, the accusations of (legal) historical inaccuracy fall flat from the outset, or are implicitly aimed at something else; for example, also at the rhetoric of the Colonna Infame: Massimo Verdicchio recognizes a “relapse into the rhetorical mode” when Manzoni states, on the one hand, the fundamental passionate depravity of human beings and, on the other, a particular guilt of the judges: “Manzoni’s blindness is the unavoidable deceit inherent in historical writing, in the rhetoric and ideology of history and not in the individual. Manzoni’s Storia della Colonna Infame necessarily alters and hides the truth because, in the last instance, the truth that would be revealed is its own deceit.” (Massimo Verdicchio, “Manzoni and the Promise of History,” in Sante Matteo, Larry H.Peter (eds.), The Reasonable Romantic. Essays on Alessandro Manzoni, NewYork etal.: Peter Lang 1986, pp.213–230; here: p.228.)– But “individual writing” is, after all, no less rhetorical than “historical writing”, and the joke is that both statements arise from the same ‘case’ (referent). 81  Biographically, the work of Francesco Ruffini, La vita religiosa di Alessandro Manzoni, 2 vols, Bari: Laterza 1931 is still indispensable here. Ruffini asserts an ‘inner Jansenism’ of Manzoni against all other ideological or theological currents. A differentiated reassessment is offered by Luciano Parisi, Manzoni e Bossuet, Alessandria: Edizioni Dell’Orso 2003. 82  On the debate between Jansenists and Jesuits in seventeenth-century France, its aesthetic implications and continuing effects in the Enlightenment, see: Barbara Vinken, The Origin of Aesthetics from Theological Reservation. Theories of the Aesthetic from Port-Royal to Rousseau and Sade, dissertation Yale University, New Haven etal. 1992. 83  The function and status of providentiality in the promessi sposi have been much discussed. It should be emphasized that a providential expectation or its activity in the story in the novel is never asserted by the (anonymous) narrator, but is always attributed to specific characters. Cf. Ezio Raimondi, Il romanzo senza idillio. Saggio sui Promessi Sposi, Turin: Einaudi 1974, pp.214–219; Franco Triolo, ‘Manzoni and Providence’, in Matteo, Peter (ed.), The Reasonable Romantic, pp. 245–257; Luciano Parisi, Manzoni e Bossuet, pp. 91–116 (‘Il tema della Provvidenza in Manzoni’). 80

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of man. Therefore, the models for Manzoni’s apology of Catholic moral doctrine mentioned in the introduction to the Osservazioni sulla morale cattolica are not exclusively Jansenists (such as Pascal and Nicole), but also statist bishops such as Massillon and Bourdaloue.84 The singular example of the judges is now justified by Manzoni in the Colonna Infame because it apparently helps to solve a legal-­ theological problem– none other than the justification of God. The point is to assert a freedom of will on the part of the judges. He does not, Manzoni writes, want to deny Verri’s insight into torture as the cause of the cruel miscarriage of justice: “Ma crediamo che importi il distinguerne le vere ed efficienti cagioni, che furono atti iniqui, prodotti da che, se non da passioni perverse?” (CI, 679)85 Violence is shifted from torture to the judges who would have acted maliciously. Manzoni leaves the ‘degree of malice’, or its ultimate quality, open; twice, with the phrase “Dio solo ha potuto distinguere”, “Dio solo ha potuto vedere” (CI, p.679; “God alone could know”, p.18 and p.19), he points to a knowledge that he leaves untouched; evident to him, however, remains the guilt of the act. The positive purpose of seeing the cause of injustice not in torture or a dark past but in the “passioni pervertitrici della volontà” (CI, p.679; “perverting passions of the will,” p.19) is, according to Manzoni, to uphold man’s freedom of will and action. Without it, only “orrore”, “compassione”, worse: “scoraggimento” and “disperazione” would remain in the face of the ghastly historical case. Mere shock in the face of evil is loss of self and loss of reality: Ci par di vedere la natura umana spinta invincibilmente al male da cagioni indipendenti dal suo arbitrio, e come legata in un sogno perverso e affannoso, da cui non ha mezzo di riscotersi, di cui non può nemmeno accorgersi. (CI, 680)86

Without the human will, life would be a bad dream that the dreamer would not even recognize as such. Mere indignation is inappropriate here, because it would naturalize the evil deed, make it into something sublime, and it would remain unjustified. Recognition of guilt becomes necessary because otherwise God would be called into question. And so the judge’s accusation becomes the necessary alternative for “due bestemmie” (CI, 680; “two blasphemies,” p.21), to deny providentiality or to accuse it (“negar la Provvidenza, o accusarla,” CI, 680). Manzoni, in placing the blame on the judges, takes a probabilistic middle course. In moral-theological logic, he has no choice but to make the injustice of the judgment the fault of the judges: Ma quando, nel guardar più attentamente a que’ fatti, ci si scopre un’ingiustizia che poteva esser veduta da quelli stessi che la commettevano, un trasgredir le regole ammesse anche da loro, dell’azioni opposte ai lumi che non solo c’erano al loro tempo, ma che essi medesimi, in circostanze simili, mostraron d’avere, è un sollievo il pensare che, se non seppero quello  Cf. OMC, “Al lettore”, p.7.  “But we believe that what matters is to know the real causes which were malicious acts, and what should have produced them but perverse passions?” (p.18) 86  “We think we see human nature driven inevitably to evil by causes which do not depend on its will, as if it were bound in a perverse and agonizing dream from which it is unable to free itself, or even to recognize as such.” (p.20f.) 84 85


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che facevano, fu per non volerlo sapere, fu per quell’ignoranza che l’uomo assume e perde a suo piacere, e non è una scusa, ma una colpa; e che di tali fatti si può bensì esser forzatamente vittime, ma non autori. (CI, 680 f.; Herv. D.S.)87

In a decisionistic act, the injustice of the act becomes the guilt of the judges. Instead of denying or accusing God, Manzoni chooses to accuse the judges. It is not quite true, then, to say, as above, that the judges are imputed with a knowledge where there could be none. What they are charged with is a denial of knowledge. Unlike Jesus, who asked the Father to forgive his murderers because they ‘did not know what they were doing’ (Luke 23:34), Manzoni charges the judges with not knowing what they were doing. This is, with Blumenberg, a juridically intensified story for the exoneration of God, in which the legitimacy of modernity becomes grace.88 A more radical positivization of evil in the name of good is hard to imagine, and one might hardly follow Manzoni voluntarily in seeing in this theological juridism a relief or something consoling (“un sollievo”). One suspects why, although the Colonna Infame is of the same origin as the novel, he hesitated to keep it in because it implies the necessity of man’s condemnation of man. There is, however, relief and consolation in the fact that the text was published at the end precisely as the novel’s conclusion and not precisely as a text in its own right. Manzoni’s example of the condemned judges does not create an analytical comparability; no rule can be derived from their case, be it ‘only’ that of the necessity of judgment or even that of providentiality. Rather, their (fictionalized) case could be taken as a poor metaphor for that rule (of the violence of law) which the novel undertakes to abolish from a sum of bad, murderous examples (from Cristoforo to Egidio) in the protagonist couple Renzo and Lucia.89 Renzo and Lucia escape with their marriage (perhaps, if only in fiction) the violence of perverse law which the judges in the case of Piazzas and Moras may themselves have authorized. By means of a metaphorical, compensatory procedure, the historical case of Piazza/Mora is fictionalized just as the fictional couple Renzo and Lucia is historicized. In one case as in the other, history and novel, historiography and fiction, are as inseparable as in the whole ‘historical novel’. For this reason, disputes over genre in relation to the Colonna Infame seem only partially informative.90 Not being allowed to negate or deny providentiality leads Manzoni to do 87  “But if, on a closer examination of the facts, one discovers in them an injustice (Herv. D.S.) which could also be recognized by those who committed it, a transgression of the rules recognized even by them, with acts contrary to the insights which not only already existed in their time, but which even they themselves testified to on other occasions, then it is comforting to think that they did not know what they were doing because they did not want to know, because they persisted in that ignorance which man takes or loses at will, which is not an excuse, but a guilt (Herv. D.S.); and that in such acts one may be compelled to be the victim, but not compelled to be the perpetrator.” (p.21) 88  Hans Blumenberg, Die Legitimität der Neuzeit. Erneuerte Ausgabe, Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp2 1999 (1966). 89  Cf. Anselm Haverkamp, “Example, Metaphor, Equivalence: Poetics after Aristotle”, in: Armen Avanessian, Jan Niklas Howe (eds.), Poetics. Historische Narrative und aktuelle Positionen, Berlin: Kadmos 2014, pp.15–29. 90  Cf. Angelo Pupino’s formalizing visualization of the reception of the text as literary, rhetorical (oratorical) and non-literary (historiographical) in: “Il vero solo è bello”. Manzoni tra Retorica e Logica, Bologna: Il Mulino 1982, p.25. Significantly, he develops his thesis of a non-autonomous literature and writing between rhetoric and logic on the basis of a reading of Colonna Infame.

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something other. Michael Bernsen has rightly pointed to the revealing words from the 31st chapter, with which the narrator announces the digression on the Milanese plague, of which the Colonna Infame has become an extension: Noi, esaminando e confrontando, con molta diligenza se non altro, tutte le relazioni stampate, più d’una inedita, molti (in ragione del poco che ne rimane) documenti, come dicono, ufiziali, abbiam cercato di farne non già quel che si vorrebbe, ma qualche cosa che non è stato ancor fatto. (PS, XXXI, 526)91

Bernsen writes: “The historiographically interested reader expects the formula that he has tried to make something out of the sources ‘not as it should be’ to be followed by: ‘but as it really was’. Manzoni, however, declares that he has done something that no one before him has done.”92 The novelty of Manzoni’s reading of history moves between the Aristotelian poles of poetry, which depicts “quel che si vorrebbe,” and historiography, which depicts what really happened. Bernsen calls this new procedure “historical myth research” and is concerned with proving, against Goethe and Co, the inner coherence of historical and fictional passages in the novel. But this fails to recognize the radical nature of the novelty of Manzonis’s epistemic novel project, which egregiously institutes the novel as truth-speech. If we are to speak of myth-making, in any case, one would have to speak of ‘mythmaking’ as well. In the bride and groom of Renzo and Lucia, a ‘mythical’ antithesis is created to the historical constellations of power and pairs of injustice consisting of oppressors and oppressed.93 What has been called a fairy tale or a (scheme of the Hellenistic) romance novel(s) of the promessi sposi seems more appropriately described as a fictional law or a legitimate fiction that makes us believe in the truth of a law where it does not exist. In the idea of marriage, the cycle of violence seems broken and a fictionally affirmed– that is, neither denied nor accused– divine violence co-­conceived, which for once does not punish or condemn but acquits. The crime of the plague smearers, which did not exist, is accordingly confronted with a marriage law that transcends all civil law, which perhaps does not exist either and which is only approximately deciphered (as probability) in the Promessi sposi. One might bring this option of a legitimate fiction (of a couple) into a functional analogy with Pascal’s wager: Much as Pascal, in a paradox-chiastic speech act, asserts an improbable God with a probability fiction,94 Manzoni’s narrator affirms an improbable divine right with a probable legal fiction. In the non-knowledge of divine right (or providentiality), judgment is suspended and transferred to the action of the novel. At the level of discours, this leads to the paradoxical narrative instance of an  “We have examined and compared with great care all the printed accounts plus some unprinted and many (of the few that have survived) so-called official documents, in order to make out of them if not what one would like, at least something that has never been done before.” (S. 668) 92  Bernsen, History and Stories, p.184. 93  Cf. Italo Calvino, “Il romanzo dei rapporti di forza”, in: Carlo Ballerini (ed.), Atti del convegno manzoniano di Nimega 16-17-18 ottobre 1973, Firenze: Libr. Ed. Fiorentiana 1974, pp.215–225. 94  Cf. Rüdiger Campe, Spiel der Wahrscheinlichkeit. Literatur und Berechnung zwischen Pascal und Kleist, Göttingen: Wallstein 2002; Cornelia Wild, “Schreibpraxis und Gottesbeweis- Pascals Experimentalsystem”, in: Michael Gamper, Martina Wernli, Jörg Zimmer (eds), ‘Es ist nun einmal zum Versuch gekommen’. Experiment und Literatur I, pp.1580–1790, Göttingen: Wallstein 2009, pp.131–146. 91


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identity-less anonym who does not invent a story but finds one already written by history and merely transmits it.95 On the one hand, this allows us to run through the whole gamut of the role of judge (from acquittal to death sentence), and at the same time to use this gamut to show that the verdict could always have looked different– even in the case of a Federigo Borromeo, who represents the jurisdiction of the Church.96 In the present context, however, I am less concerned with the problematic status of the novel’s narrator than with the mode of operation of the legal figure of marriage he employs, in which the decision-making dilemma of the promessi sposi is expressed at the level of histoire. In the novel, marriage becomes the prospective figure of a justice that is not least divine; of this, the marriage depicted is at best a beautiful semblance or, unlike the judges, not a bad metaphor but a good one. In contrast to the judge’s verdict, the act of marriage was not based on perverted passions, but on a legitimate passion. If the verdict of the judge (and also the narrator’s verdict of the judges) is based on compulsion without justice, marriage is a right without compulsion. As a figure of justice, it covers the principled aporias of law and justice. In Kant’s philosophy of law, according to which law is a constraint on freedom, such a conception of marriage would have no place. It would not be right, but at most, equitable. Mediating between law and justice, equity (aequitas) in Roman law had a corrective function for the ius civile. It was to ensure that the same law was applied in different cases. However, equity and emergency law are now excluded from law in the strict sense (ius strictum) by Kant as “law without coercion” or “coercion without law”.97 Renzo and Lucia’s marriage is a right without coercion because it is based on their own authority, mutual consensus and sacramentality. It is important to note that it does not replace or abolish the paradox of (earthly) law and justice, but rather overlays it– poetically-sacramentally. This is evident from the fact that the novel’s conclusion of Colonna Infame is intimately interwoven with the novel’s beginning, where Don Abbondio’s prevented (marriage) exercise of justice by the Bravi is attributed to bad laws. The legal critique at the introduction of Don Abbondio in the first chapter reads in places like a direct commentary on the judicial scandal of the Colonna Infame: laws existed, but they were not obeyed; classes,   Cf. the reading of the novel’s preface as epistemological fiction in Thomas Klinkert, Epistemologische Fiktionen. Zur Interferenz von Literatur und Wissenschaft seit der Aufklärung, Berlin/New York: De Gruyter 2010, pp.179–185 (“Die Refunktionalisierung der Manuskriptfiktion im Zeichen der Ironie”), who, however, does not place the observed irony in the juridical framework claimed here. 96  Criticism in the mode of irony is then also exercised on the psychological torture of ecclesiastical confessional and penitential practices: cf. Cardinal Federigo’s merciless interrogation, including autoinquisition, to which Don Abbondio is subjected and which he ends with an inward “‘Oh che sant’uomo! ma che tormento!’” (PS, XXVI, 447; “‘Oh, what a holy man! And what a tormentor!’”, p.566). 97  Cf. Immanuel Kant, Metaphysik der Sitten (1797), Erster Teil, ed. Bernd Ludwig, Hamburg: Meiner 1998, pp.42–45 (“Vom zweideutigen Recht (Ius aequivocum)”). Kant’s definition of marriage, as seen above (see Sect. 2.1, “Vom heiligen Stand zum Selbstzweck”), is quite different (cf. ibid., § 24 to § 27; pp.93–97). I came across equity as law without coercion in Harun Maye, “Die Paradoxie der Billigkeit in Recht und Hermeneutik”, in: Vismann, Weitin (eds.), Urteilen/ Entscheiden,pp. 56–71. 95

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estates, oligarchies, and potentates secured power, privilege, and impunity in order to circumvent the law. No individual, least of all the powerless, could hope to be supported: “La forza legale non proteggeva in alcun conto l’uomo tranquillo, inoffensivo, e che non avesse altri mezzi di far paura altrui.” (PS, I, 16)98 Manzoni here undoubtedly follows the interdependence of power and justice noted by Pascal in the fragment “Justice, force”: because laws are not in themselves just, law needs a force to assert it as just: “Et ainsi ne pouvant faire que ce qui est juste fût fort, on a fait que ce qui est fort fût juste.”99 Because justice cannot be enforced, the reverse happens: power gives itself the appearance of being right, and those without power are out of luck. Manzoni’s novel counters Pascal’s legal pessimism and Kant’s ‘compulsory right to freedom’ with a fictitious right to freedom in the figure of the marriage.100

Renzo’s Irony “‘[…] A questo mondo c’è giustizia finalmente.’” (PS, III, 55)– “‘[…] There is, after all, justice in this world.’” (p.74). These are Renzo’s angry and bitter words, which he will say over and over again until he is able to hold his Lucia in his arms again at the end. The first time they are uttered is in the third chapter after the unsuccessful attempt to obtain legal assistance from the shyster lawyer Azzecca-garbugli against Don Rodrigo’s stalking. From the beginning, the prevented marriage is a “caso”, a legal case, in the course of which Renzo repeatedly faces the threat of falling from the role of the accuser to that of the accused.101 The first time is with Azzecca-garbugli, from whom Renzo wants to know whether it is a crime if a priest is prevented from performing his office by a threat of death: “‘[…] Vorrei sapere se, a minacciare un curato, perchè non faccia un matrimonio, c’è penale.’” (PS, III, 44f.)102 The strange lawyer, who has the perversion of the law in his name, does indeed find a corresponding decree of the law in the mountains of files, but suspects in Renzo not an innocent man, but the very Bravo who put pressure on the priest. In Renzo, as in the case of Piazzas and Moras, an innocent man is thus repeatedly accused. But is he really innocent? Renzo’s love for Lucia is a fact that the novel presupposes; there is no initiation of love or scene of a declaration of love in the Promessi sposi. The protagonists’ separate stories are not about the development of an individual couple relationship

 “The power of the law offered not the slightest protection to a quiet and peaceful man who possessed no other means of commanding respect from others.” (p.25) 99  Blaise Pascal, Pensées, ed. Michel Le Guern, Paris: Gallimard 2004 (1977), frag. 94 (Le Guern)/298 (Brunschvicg), p.102. 100  Manzoni vacillates between a principled pessimism about law and the view that law can be optimized through its codification. Cf. for example the second chapter of the Colonna Infame, where he justifies the authority of legal scholars with the absence of codified law (CI, p.691). 101  Cf. “il miserabile caso” (PS, I, p.23). 102  “‘[…] I would like to know whether it is punishable to threaten a minister not to perform a marriage ceremony.’” (p.61) 98


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or about couple psychology, but about the right by which such a couple relationship can be asserted at all. Crucial to this right is the relationship the couple is brought into, with its exterior, and how Renzo, as a male character, and Lucia, as a female character, relate to this exterior. The fictional premise of the novel is the innocence of the loving couple, which is put to the test in the course of their separation. It is, in other words, about Renzo’s proving himself as a novel hero, as a male loving character, and instead of individual psychology, his journey describes a psychology of the male novel hero. In the same course, this puts the novel’s central developmental model, the model of conversion, to the test. While the outstanding characters Padre Cristoforo and the Innominato are characterized by spectacular conversions– from murderer or feared outlaw to advocate for the oppressed– in Renzo and Lucia the conversion coincides with the couple unification. To represent a just community in the couple at the end is the paradoxical goal of both Renzo’s and Lucia’s journey. In the protagonist-couple, the novel propagates a fictional story in which the subject becomes capable of procreating, capable of community, and capable of community power, even though his relationship immediately becomes dubious again after reunification. Renzo as a fictional couple-subject is thus not only an alternative to his revenants Piazza and Mora– the victims of real history– but also to the martyr model, which Manzoni opposes in a skeptical-enlightenment way,103 as well as to institutional-corporative-legislative authorities such as the Innominato or Cardinal Borromeo. Attention has already been drawn several times to the differences between Renzo’s and Lucia’s travels in the novel: Lucia stays mainly indoors, while Renzo is sent out into the world, history and nature. The oppositions: internal and external, religion and politics seem so clearly defined. However, this opposition formation is systematically broken in the common but different moment of a circuitous conversion. What happens to Renzo on his journey, what he does and what he learns, profanes both the epic and the civic hero. He is neither steeled for war and politics by winning the right to his wife, nor does he learn anything that would promote the happiness of the community. Renzo does not quite want to shine as an epic hero, nor as a bourgeois hero, nor as a comic-picaresque hero; he is hardly less domesticated and disciplined than Lucia, yet without being abandoned to ridicule. I read Renzo’s development, as well as Lucia’s, as a paradoxical conversion in which the subject’s perfection is not in relation to God but in the couple. This is paradoxical because  An attribute, incidentally, that is withheld from Piazza and Mora because of their complicity. The term “martyr” is used only once in the Colonna Infame, in the case of Gaspare Migliavacca, who, like Piazza and Mora, was condemned to death, remained steadfast under torture and interrogation and did not allow himself to be named again. Cf. CI, VI, 765: “Ne’ tormenti, in faccia alla morte, le sue parole furon tutte meglio che da uom forte; furon da martire.” (“Under torture and in the face of death, his words sounded better than those of a strong man– they were those of a martyr.” S. 152) In the Osservazioni sulla morale cattolica, Manzoni cites early Christian martyrdom as an exception to the ‘anthropological’ rule according to which people obey powerful laws. Christianity, he argues, was a miraculous community in that it managed to spread and succeed en masse despite the actually inhuman norm of having to endure death if escape was impossible. (Cf. OMC, III, 26.) 103

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there is (almost) no mention of a couple relationship in the novel. Instead, the text ‘halves’ the subjects by making them fail in their contact with the outside world (politics in Renzo’s case, religion in Lucia’s). Renzo and Lucia are delegitimized as single subjects, on their way ‘alone’ they both fall into guilt and error, only to experience a decisive turn in the couple at the end– a ‘conversion’, a ‘new beginning’ of idyll and catastrophe alike. The couple is distinguished at the end not only semantically by the ‘outer worlds’ they pass through, but especially by two different fictionalities: In a chiastic entanglement, the novelist profanes epic literature in the character of Renzo, while he sacralizes novelistic literature (the modern romance tradition) in the character of Lucia. The premise of the text, the untold (romantic) desire for love, is redeemed by the text as the justification of a new novel, a new literature of couple difference– between epic and novel, masculinity and femininity, between activity and passivity, between couple and community, intimacy and publicity. Ezio Raimondi has described Renzo as a failed Odysseus.104 In fact, he resembles the epic hero in many ways: He is a traveler and an avenger; he becomes the narrator of his own story; and he acquires cunning. However, Raimondi sees his ultimate failure confirmed above all in the ending, where there is no return but exile, and where Lucia negates Renzo’s utilitarian morality. Lucia therefore embodies “l’ironia della comunità” in analogy to Hegel’s “feminine”.105 In fact, the Hegelian dialectic would actually be reversed: Renzo’s masculinity is the irony of that dialectical commonwealth which “gives itself its existence only through the disruption of family bliss and the dissolution of self-consciousness into the general.”106 Renzo-Odysseus would then correspond, as it were, to Hegel’s Antigone: just as Hegel suspends the latter’s actions in the name of divine law in a bourgeois housewife sphere, Manzoni makes of Odysseus’s epic exploits potentially disruptive actions from within the polity, whereas ‘human law’ “in its activity at all” is, above all, femininity “[that] moves and sustains”.107 Differences between the protagonists are to be sought both at the level of action and at the metanarrative level of the text. Crucially, the epic intertext, and more generally: masculine heroism, is cited in a consistently parodic, debunking manner. The irony of the novel begins with its plot and does not break in at the end.108 Renzo’s comically despairing exclamation “A questo mondo c’è giustizia finalmente.” is the emblem of this irony.

 Raimondi, Il romanzo senza idillio, pp.173–189 (“La ricerca incompiuta”).  Ibid., p.188. 106  Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, ed. Eva Moldenhauer and Karl Markus Michel, Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp 1986, p.352. 107  Ibid. 108  Cf. the collected contributions in: Massimiliano Mancini (ed.), Il romanzo dell’ironia. I promessi sposi nella critica manzoniana recente, Manziana (Rome): Vecchiarelli 2005. 104 105


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Ambivalent Politics ofAffect Renzo’s innocent desire for love goes unmentioned by the narrator; only Don Abbondio formulates it in his mind, after he has been threatened by Don Rodrigo’s Bravi and fears the next threat– from Renzo: “Se Renzo si potesse mandare in pace con un bel no, via; ma vorrà delle ragioni […]? […] E poi, e poi, perduto dietro a quella Lucia, innamorato come … Ragazzacci, che, per non saper che fare, s’innamorano, voglion maritarsi, e non pensano ad altro; non si fanno carico de’ travagli in che mettono un povero galantuomo. Oh povero me! […]” (PS, I, 21)109

Don Abbondio’s anticipated accusation of Renzo is quite justified, for when the latter learns of the supposed impediments to the marriage, he presses the priest with all his virility to reveal Don Rodrigo’s name as the true cause of the postponement of the wedding. The conversation in the second chapter stages Renzo’s pseudo-epic anger, expressed primarily in a strangely displayed gesture of threat. At the moment of the mention of the name, Renzo is described with the words, “e stava curvo, con l’orecchio chino sulla bocca di lui, con le braccia tese, e i pugni stretti all’indietro” (PS, II, 34).110 Primo Levi has pointed out the artificiality, manneredness of this threatening gesture, speaking of a “processo mentale indiretto”, “come se l’autore, di fronte a un atteggiamento del corpo umano […] cercasse di illustrare l’illustrazione stessa in luogo del dato visivo immediato”.111 He contrasts Manzoni’s greatness in finding metaphors and images for the incomprehensible reason of evil with an awkwardness and embarrassment in the expression of the human gesture (“il gesto umano”).112 In the representation of affect, he argues, a limit of the Christian narrator is revealed, who does not allow for uncontrolled and ambivalent affects (one could also say: affects that cannot be subsumed under Christian caritas). Renzo’s rage is censored in Christian terms by evoking it as the artificial, false rage of a literary hero. This shift bears the signature of the triangular structure of desire described by René Girard: Don Rodrigo becomes the mediating figure of Renzo’s desire.113 Here begins, to speak as the narrator of the Colonna Infame, a bad dream of history in which the innocent are drawn into guilt and become (co-)culprits. With fantasies of murder, Renzo leaves the rectory, with the narrator explaining the logic of the entanglement to the reader:

 “If only Renzo could be fobbed off with a clear no! But no, he will ask for reasons […] And then he is so infatuated with this Lucia, in love like a… these childish heads who fall in love because they know nothing better to do, who want to marry and think of nothing else, who don’t care what hardships they get a poor man of honour into! O woe, o woe! […]’”. (p.31) 110  “[T]here he stood bent over, his ear close over the priest’s mouth, his arms stretched back and his hands clenched backward into fists.” (p.47) 111  Primo Levi, “Il pugno di Renzo”, in id., L’altrui mestiere, Turin: Einaudi 1985, pp.75–80; here: p.77f. 112  Ibid., p.77. 113  Cf. René Girard, Mensonge romantique et vérité romanesque, Paris: Grasset 1961. 109

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Renzo intanto camminava a passi infuriati verso casa, senza aver determinato quel che dovesse fare, man con una smania addosso di far qualcosa di strano e di terribile. I provocatori, i soverchiatori, tutti coloro che, in qualunque modo, fanno torto altrui, sonor rei, non solo del male che commettono, ma del pervertimento ancora a cui portano gli animi degli offesi. (PS, II, 36)114

This “pervertimento” to which Renzo succumbs has its first– comic– climax in the plan for the surprise wedding. Renzo eagerly appropriates Agneses idea that one could force the wedding in a legal grey area. If only Renzo and Lucia could succeed in pronouncing the marriage consensus in the presence of the priest, with two other witnesses present, the couple would be legally married under church law. Coincidentally, Don Rodrigo’s plan to kidnap Lucia falls on the same day. Both actions described in the “notte degl’imbrogli e de’ sotterfugi” (PS, VIII, 141; “Night of Pretenses and Dodgings,” p.180) fail. Both projects– Renzo’s forced marriage and Don Rodrigo’s shamefully abortive wife-stealing – are portrayed comically. Salvatore S. Nigro points to parallels with Fielding’s Joseph Andrews and Tom Jones and to a melodramatization of the scene– mediated via the Barber of Seville.115 The later, actual abduction of Lucia and the “notte dell’Innominato” are diametrically opposed to the carnivalized night in the village, where no one knows what the other is doing anymore. With regard to Renzo, the narrator makes the significant remark of an indistinguishability between right and wrong, which at the same time expresses the malicious metapoetics: In mezzo a questo serra serra, non possiam lasciar di fermarci un momento a fare una riflessione. Renzo, che strepitava di notte in casa altrui, che vi s’era introdotto di soppiatto, e teneva il padrone stesso assediato in una stanza, ha tutta l’apparenza d’un oppressore; eppure, alla fin de’ fatti, era l’oppresso. Don Abbondio, sorpreso, messo in fuga, spaventato, mentre attendeva tranquillamente a’ fatti suoi, parrebbe la vittima; eppure, in realtà, era lui che faceva un sopruso. Così va spesso il mondo… voglio dire, così andava nel secolo decimo settimo. (PS, VIII, 128)116

The irony of this statement of an apparent division of roles between persecutor and persecuted is heightened by the narrator’s citing it at the very moment when Don Abbondio, by throwing a blanket over Lucia’s head in a panic, has foiled the plan to marry her off on his own authority. Renzo’s attempt to do himself justice fails comically and gives rise to a reflection (“riflessione”) of the  “Meanwhile, Renzo hurried home in a rage, without having decided what to do, but with a wild desire to do something extraordinary and terrible. The agitators, the mischief-makers, all those who in any way wrong others, are guilty not only of the misdeeds they commit, but also of the aberrations into which they drive the souls of their victims.” (p.49) 115  Manzoni, Fermo e Lucia, ed. Nigro/Paccagnini, p.966f. 116  “In the midst of this confusion we cannot but pause for a moment for a reflection. Renzo, clamouring at night-time in a strange house into which he has surreptitiously entered, and whose owner he besieges in a room, gives quite the impression of a besieger, and yet he is ultimately the besieged. Don Abbondio, surprised, frightened, driven to flight while peacefully pursuing his amorous pursuits, might appear to be the victim, and yet in reality it was he who had committed a wrong. So it often goes in the world… will say, so it went in the seventeenth century.” (S. 165) 114


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character-direction. His guilt is comically muted, although the insight, in relation to the novel’s plot, is of tragic seriousness and also, in Renzo’s case, leads to an arrest warrant and almost a death sentence. On the one hand, it is clear that earthly justice can only come to pass when perverse passions are brought onto the right path; on the other hand, this very conversion of Renzo remains doubtful. His affectivity retains the air of the to-be-­debunked-as-comic until the very end. While great politics and the plage prove to be earthly prudentia in his contacts with the world, great politics, and the plague, they are assigned a complementary, passively receiving role in his relationship with Lucia. In the course of the novel, it is not Renzo who converts (nor Lucia, as will become clear by analogy below); rather, it is the couple’s union which is presented as the central turning point for both characters. The reconfigured romantic fiction is going-to-life-together instead of going-to-deathtogether. This ‘turnaround of the couple’ can be illustrated by the juxtaposition of the final scene of the novel with the preparations for the ‘matrimonio a sorpresa’ in Chapter VII, in the course of which Renzo blackmails Lucia into consenting to the semi-­ illegal plan. It is the scene in which, with Primo Levi, the ambivalence of Renzo’s affect turns against Lucia herself, an ambivalence that the narrator attempts to contain as Renzo’s strategic ploy. Renzo gives in to his rage against Don Rodrigo after Cristoforo reports his failure in his parley with the latter. The good Lucia is horrified by Renzo’s rage but persists in her unwillingness to do illegal things, which in turn leads Renzo, in part feigned and part genuine rage, to force consent from her as a proof of love: “Voi!” rispose, con una voce che’esprimeva un’ira ben diversa, ma un’ira tuttavia: “voi! Che bene mi volete voi? Che prova m’avete data? Non v’ho io pregata, e pregata, e pregata? E voi: no! no!” (PS, VII, 106)117

The manneristic, gestural and verbal threat works and Lucia acquiesces. Primo Levi has correctly noticed this artificial anger, and indeed it is more ‘the illustration of an illustration’, meta-wrath than ‘real wrath’. Giovanni Pascoli’s micro-reading of the scene has shown how much it should be read against the background of Aeneas’s last night in Troy.118 Lucia takes on the role both of Anchises’ father, who does not want to flee with him, and of his wife Creusa, who begs Aeneas on behalf of the family not to engage in battle again. A miracle, which makes the old Anchises yield, brings about the turn of events in Virgil; but Creusa, the consort, being denied  “‘You?’ he replied in a voice that expressed a very different anger, but still anger. ‘You? How much do you love me? What proof have you given me? Have I not begged you, begged you, begged you again and again? But you: No! No!’” (p.139) 118  Giovanni Pascoli, “Eco d’una notte mitica,” in id., L’Era Nuova. Pensieri e discorsi (1907), Milan: E.G.E.A. 1994, pp. 131–145. Renzo’s threat of revenge is a parody of Aeneas’ words, “arma, viri, ferte arma; vocat lux ultima victos./reddite me Danais; sinite instaurata revisam/proelia. Numquam omnes hodie moriemur inulti.” (“Arms, men, bring forth the weapons; the last day calls the vanquished! Bring me again to the Danaans, let me take up the fight anew! Never, never shall we all die today without being avenged!”, Virgil, Aeneid, transl. and ed. Edith and Gerhard Binder, Stuttgart: Reclam 2008, II, 668–670, p.108.) 117

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flight by the Olympians, the higher law decrees that Aeneas will save the family with a new consort. Renzo’s words now, which must seem improbable and clumsy under the standard of the realistic, imitate Aeneas’s epic anger and expose not so much a false affect (or a Renzo who would be secretly rowdy) as a false representation of affect (or an epic heroic concept). With “un’ira ben diversa, ma un’ira tuttavia,” Aeneas’s persuasion strategy resonates – a call to arms (“arma, viri, ferte arma”),119 which Manzoni’s narrator questions: In mezzo a quella sua gran collera, aveva Renzo pensato di che profitto poteva esser per lui lo spavento di Lucia? E non aveva adoperato un po’ d’artifizio a farlo crescere, per farlo fruttare? Il nostro autore protesta di non ne saper nulla; e io credo che nemmen Renzo non lo sapesse bene. Il fatto sta ch’era realmente infuriato contro don Rodrigo, e che bramava ardentemente il consenso di Lucia; e quando due forti passioni schiamazzano insieme nel cuor d’un uomo, nessuno, neppure il paziente, può sempre distinguer chiaramente una voce dall’altra, e dir con sicurezza qual sia quella che predomini. (PS, VII, 106 f.)120

Pascoli aptly modifies the narrator’s question: “Aveva Enea pensato di che profitto poteva esser per lui lo spavento di Anchise e Creusa? E non aveva adoperato un po’ d’artifizio a farlo crescere, per farlo fruttare? Il nostro autore protesta di non ne saper nulla …”.121 In his confrontation with the fictional authorial instance, Manzoni’s narrator brings Renzo’s ‘Aenean’ anger into a moral grey area by imputing calculation and intentionality to him – and deception to Lucia. In doing so, Renzo becomes an imitator of his enemy Don Rodrigo: while the latter seeks to rob Lucia, Renzo seeks a forced marriage in which the betrothed’s promise is a forced one. Fearing Renzo’s revenge murder of Don Rodrigo, Lucia renounces her will, and thus becomes no less caught in a moral gray area. “‘Ve lo prometto […]’”, “‘[v]e l’ho promesso,’” “‘[ho] promesso, e non mi ritiro […]’” (PS, VII, 106f.),122 she repeats desperately. Structurally, the scene thus becomes an announcement, a prolepsis, of Lucia’s vow of chastity in chapter XXI, in which she will again surrender out of fear and confess the vow.123 Renzo’s ambivalent anger appears more and more throughout the novel as harmless, profane anger purged by earthly violence and narrative suggestion, while Lucia’s ‘innocence’ is ascribed a sacred fear that is, in the end, decisive for the crisis. Significantly, it is not the narrator (nor the anonymous author) who corrects Renzo’s desire for revenge in Fermo e Lucia, but  “Arms, men, bring forth arms” (Virgil, Aeneid, II, p.668).  “Had Renzo, in the midst of his great anger, possibly considered what use he could make of Lucia’s horror? And had he endeavoured to increase her horror with a little artifice, in order to make better use of it? Our author professes to know nothing about it, and I don’t think even Renzo himself quite knew. The fact is that he was really very angry with Don Rodrigo, and that he ardently desired Lucia’s consent, and when two strong passions rage simultaneously in a man’s breast, no one, not even the sufferer himself, can always clearly distinguish the voice of the one from that of the other, and say with certainty which of the two predominates.” (p.139f.) 121  Pascoli, “Eco d’una notte mitica,” p.144f. 122  “‘I promise you.’”; “‘I promised’”; “‘I promised and I’ll keep it.’” (p.139f.) 123  Cf. also the commentary in Manzoni, I Promessi Sposi, ed. Stella/Repossi, p.740: “La decisione di Lucia si proietta, fin da ora nella mente di chi già conosce la sua vicenda, in quella del voto”. 119 120


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Lucia herself. Here it is cunning against cunning and a mutual promise. It is that Padre Cristoforo will not put up with Fermo indulging his thirst for revenge and demands that he renounce it: “‘[…] io non mi parto di qui se tu non mi giuri in faccia a quella Vergine’ (e accennò una immagine attaccata al muro della stanza) ‘di aver deposto ogni pensiero di vendetta’” (FL, I, VII, 113).124 When Fermo hesitates, Lucia seizes the opportunity and promises him that Renzo’ will do ‘anything he wants’ if only he will take the oath demanded by Padre Cristoforo (without the latter freely suspecting what counter-promise Lucia has specifically in mind). And Fermo swears: “‘Lo giuro,’ disse Fermo” (FL, I, VII, 114; “‘I swear it,’ said Fermo”). Thus, a mutual, rational-affective alliance emerges in Fermo e Lucia: Lucia cleverly makes her consent to the high-handedly consummated love marriage conditional on a counterclaim. The path the couple takes in the Promessi sposi is a decidedly more separate one, and it has other similarities. It is not the symmetrical couple relationship that is promoted, but the deepening of the asymmetry of the worlds into which Renzo and Lucia are sent. Paradoxically put, the couple comes closer by moving away from each other. The moment of coming together (the marriage) will also be the moment of the couple’s splitting. In the powerless, lawless and chaotic world, the ambivalence of Renzo’s affects becomes increasingly irrelevant. If he survives and in the end realizes a justice of providentiality, it is indistinguishable from happiness and contingency. Instead of self-conquest and affect control, he ‘learns’ to accept affects as natural. The moral of his story, which Renzo is so fond of telling, is a self-referential lesson of omission: “Ho imparato”, diceva, “a non mettermi ne’ tumulti; ho imparato a non predicare in piazza: ho imparato a guardare con chi parlo: ho imparato a non alzar troppo il gomito: ho imparato a non tenere in mano il martello delle porte, quando c’è lì d’intorno gente che ha la testa calda: ho imparato a non attaccarmi un campanello al piede, prima d’aver pensato quel che possa nascere.” E cent’altre cose. (PS, XXXVIII, 672)125

The purely negative morality thus becomes the perfect passive part of that active “fiducia in Dio” to which the couple agrees after Lucia’s objection. Renzo learns not to love, but to tell. On the plot level, he fails as a male action hero. Everything happens despite or without his intervention. At the same time, his lesson in redirecting epic anger into picaresque cunning and pleasure in storytelling is no less essential to couple-building than Lucia’s redirected devotion to God. This is for the simple reason that their separate stories each occupy roughly the same amount of space in the novel; and, finally, for the fact that in reflecting on the couple-story, readers can reconsider not only their relation to themselves but also their relation to the

 “‘[…] I will not move from here until you swear to me in the face of this Madonna’ (and he pointed to a picture hanging on the wall of the room) ‘to have laid aside every thought of revenge’.” 125  “‘I have learned,’ he said, ‘not to meddle with tumults, I have learned not to make popular speeches in the street, I have learned to look at whom I am talking to, I have learned not to look too deeply into the glass, I have learned not to keep the knocker in my hand when hot-headed people are near, I have learned not to tie a cuff to my foot before I have considered what it may lead to.’ And a hundred other things.” (p.854) 124

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world– in a “contemplation désintéressée”.126 For Renzo’s world, then, the question remains: what becomes of his anger? How is it redirected, ‘converted’?

Between Mass andPower: Renzo’s Disappointed Revolution There is an interesting switch in the compositional structure of the novel: In Fermo e Lucia, Renzo’s story– his involvement in the bread riot in Milan, his arrest and escape to Bergamo– is told after Lucia’s kidnapping story. Lucia is betrayed there by Gertrude in the convent, kidnapped and freed, and only afterwards is it told how Renzo, meanwhile, is making revolution in Milan as an ignorant man. In part, these rearrangements in the novel have been explained as a change from a chronologically predetermined to an ‘inner temporality’ (‘tempo interiore’), although less reference is made to the reversal of the individual stories than, in particular, to the caesura of Chapter VIII and Lucia’s ‘Addio ai monti’.127 Whatever exactly is to be understood by internal temporality, the bringing forward of Renzo’s Milanese history represents a chronological restitution: Renzo is arrested on 12th November 1628, before Lucia’s abduction in December 1628.128 More than that, in this way the causality of the plot is corrected. Renzo’s judicial case becomes the logical prelude to Lucia’s abduction, which, after all, involves the Innominato’s conversion and thus the overruling of earthly structures of injustice. His entanglement with justice must logically be narrated beforehand if it is to be a real obstacle to the couple’s reunion. In Fermo e Lucia, in fact, it is not a serious obstacle; the arrest warrant is not withdrawn there and is instead cited as one of the reasons that lead the couple to settle in exile rather than in their Milanese homeland after the wedding.129 Legally, ecclesiastical marriage there is independent of civil criminal law, which, incidentally, is also indicative of the more radical legal pessimism of Fermo e Lucia noted by Enrico Opocher.130 The couple in the Promessi sposi, on the other hand, constitute themselves not so much against the law as in the place of the law. If one may speak of

 Alessandro Manzoni, Lettre à M.r Chauvet, in id., Tutte le opere, vol. V/III: Scritti letterari, ed. Riccardi/Travi, pp.73–166; here: p.59. 127  Cf. Giovanni Getto, Manzoni europeo, Milan: Mursia 1970, pp.57–140 (“I capitoli ‘francesi’ dei Promessi sposi”); here: p.75f. 128  Cf. the chronological reconstruction of the plot in: Isabella Gherarducci, Enrico Ghidetti, Guida allo studio dei Promessi Sposi, Florence: La Nuova Italia 1992, pp.93–100. 129  “[Q]uantunque Fermo allora non ricevesse alcuna inquietudine per quella sua impresa di Milano, e la cattura fosse un titolo inoperoso; pure un sospetto, una reminiscenza, un mal uficio, poteva far risorgere l’antica querela, e rimetterlo in Dio sa quale impiccio.” (FL, IV, IX, 665) (“Although Fermo no longer needed to be troubled by his exploits in Milan, and the warrant had in fact become irrelevant, yet a suspicion, a recollection, a begrudging administration, could revive the old quarrels and put him in God knows what predicament.”) 130  Cf. Enrico Opocher, “Lo ‘scetticismo giuridico’ del Manzoni. Note sulla visita di Renzo al dottor Azzecca-garbugli”, in: Sergio Cotta, Enrico Opocher, Dante Troisi, “se a minacciare un curato c’è penale”. Il diritto ne I promessi sposi, Milan: Giuffrè 1985, pp.47–65. 126


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interiorization, then this encompasses the whole couple and not only (or primarily) the female part. This can be clarified if one compares once again the structure of Fermo e Lucia with the Promessi sposi: the early version is divided into four volumes (and not 38 chapters), which are divided– very roughly– as follows: 1 . VolumeI: The failed wedding 2. VolumeII: The Geltrude episode and abduction of Lucia 3. VolumeIII: The liberation of Lucia; Arrest and Escape of Renzo 4. VolumeIV: Milan: Renzo’s oath of “perdono”; the resolution of Lucia’s ‘voto’. One can see how the contrast of Geltrude and Lucia structures the entire middle section, framed by a common beginning and a common end of the couple. Renzo’s story is much less elaborated and nowhere near as detailed as in The Betrothed. In the fourth volume, the focus is on two analogous speech acts by which the final obstacles to marriage, less legal than moral, are removed: Fermo swears that he forgives Don Rodrigo, and Lucia asks Padre Cristoforo to take back his vows. I will come back to Gertrude and Lucia below, but as for Fermo, the speech act of swearing is crucial. Padre Cristoforo urges him to make this vow in the hospital:“[…] Fermo! giuri tu il perdono?” “Ah! lo giuro,” rispose Fermo in tuono solenne. “A chi giuri tu di perdonare?” “A quell’uomo … ” “A chi?” “Sì, padre, a Don Rodrigo.” (FL, IV, VII, 637)131 ‘Giurare’ thrice– the scene in Fermo e Lucia leaves no doubt that it is the language, the speech act of verbal commitment that matters. Renzo, unlike Fermo, does not swear throughout the novel– to anything or anyone. In the Promessi sposi, the scene is in chapter XXV: the speech act of swearing is transposed into a direct confrontation between Renzo and Rodrigo, who is sick with the plague. Renzo affirms, “‘capisco che non gli avevo mai perdonato davvero; capisco che ho parlato da bestia, e non da cristiano: e ora, con la grazia del Signore, sì, gli perdono proprio di cuore.’” (PS, XXXV, 618)132 Nevertheless, Cristoforo leads him to Rodrigo, where Renzo is to pray and turn his attritio into contritio. The chapter culminates in Padre Cristoforo and Renzo praying together before the sickbed of the plague sufferer, explaining that Renzo imitates the padre in prayer (“Renzo fece lo stesso,” PS, XXXV, 620; “Renzo did the same,” p.786). The narrator refrains from commenting on whether this is fruitful or not. Instead, the suspense is congenially intertwined  “‘[…] Fermo! Do you swear that you forgive?’/‘Yes! I swear it,’ Fermo answered in a solemn tone of voice.’/‘Whom do you swear to forgive?’/‘This person …’/‘Whom?’/‘Yes, Father, him, Don Rodrigo.’” 132  “‘[I]t is clear to me that I had never really forgiven him. I realize that I spoke like an inhuman and not like a Christian. But now, with the Lord’s grace, now I truly forgive him from the heart.’” (p.784) 131

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with the further search for Lucia in Chapter XXVI: ‘le parole sentite appiè di quel covile, si cacciavano tra i sì e i no, ond’era combattuta la sua mente; e non poteva terminare una preghiera per l’esito felice del gran cimento, senza attaccarci quella che aveva principiata là, e che lo scocco della campana aveva troncata’ (PS, XXXVI, 621).133 The promessi sposi thus delays the moment of Renzo’s reconciliation in order to let it culminate entirely in the couple’s reunion. By not being forced to swear (any longer), Renzo on the one hand loses the power of his language and his story; on the other hand, his language and story become productive as powerless in the first place: Renzo’s story exists in large part only in the Promessi Sposi! Yes, one can say that, apart from the entanglements in the Milanese Bread Revolt,134 most of his ‘great’ episodes do not yet exist in the first version, or exist only in short form: the escape across the Adda to Bergamo (Chapter XVII), the rest at the inn of Gorgonzola (Chapter XVI), his vineyard, which the narrator describes on Renzo’s return to his native village (Chapter XXXIII), and– above all– the stormy atmosphere associated with his second walk to Milan (Chapters XXXV and XXXVI), which is defused in the downpour in which the relieved Renzo sets off again on his way home (Chapter XXXVII). It is striking that it is the discourse of nature and landscape in particular with which Renzo’s character is brought together. It has a crucial function in the Promessi sposi, together with a defused, positivized curiositas. and, in a sense, takes the place of the religious scene of reconciliation in Fermo e Lucia. Renzo’s story, in overall composition, curiously replaces the long digression about the nun of Monza and thus becomes Lucia’s proper counterpart, the groom to his bride, only in the final version of the novel. Research has already pointed out that on his journey, Renzo mainly encounters powerless figures or the people, while contact with power is reserved for Lucia: […] sull’asse semico di Lucia si incontrano Gertrude, l’innominato, il cardinale Federigo, e magari donna Prassede o don Ferrante; mentre su quello di Renzo, fatta eccezione per il “vecchio” Ferrer, si dispongono gli uomini della strada e della piazza: osti, avvocati, vagabondi, mercanti, poliziotti, compagnoni, artigiani, monatti, contadini in miseria.135

Church superiors and nobles on the one hand, the people on the street and the inns on the other. Renzo himself is in principle responsible for this division, as, at first, he is sent to the convent by Padre Cristoforo, as Lucia was, to seek safety from Don Rodrigo. But when he arrives in Milan, wavering between anger and remorse, he is so distracted by the events of the Bread Riot that he decides not to wait in the  “The words he had heard at the foot of that camp mingled with the struggle between confidence and despair that raged within him, and he could not finish a prayer for a happy outcome to the great trial without appending that which he had begun in the hut and which the tolling of the bell had abruptly interrupted.” (p.787) 134  Cf. FL, III, Chapters VI to VIII. 135  “[…] on Lucia’s semic axis one encounters Gertrude, the Unnamed, Cardinal Federigo, and perhaps donna Prassede or don Ferrante; while on Renzo’s, with the exception of the “old” Ferrer, one arranges the men of the street and the square: innkeepers, lawyers, vagabonds, merchants, policemen, compagnons, artisans, monattos, peasants in misery.” Raimondi, Il romanzo senza idillio, p.175. 133


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church for Padre Bonaventure, as he is advised by the monastery porter, but to throw himself into the tumult of the city: “Il vortice attrasse lo spettatore.” (PS, XI, 209)136 Attilio Momigliano, in his commentary on Sposi, has pointed out the affinity of this short and isolated phrase with that “La sventurata rispose.” with which Gertrude’s forbidden relationship with Egidio is narratively frozen.137 Thus Renzo, completely unaware, imagining himself in the land of milk and honey because of the bread lying around in the streets (“‘[…] Che sia il paese di cuccagna questo?’”, PS, XI, 206),138 gets caught up in the revolt of the Milanese citizens. Here comes the exception mentioned by Ezio Raimondi, Renzo’s encounter with the Grand Chancellor Ferrer, into which Renzo slips out of curiosity, curiositas. Here begins his first, tragicomic Milan adventure, which will have a more serious counterpart in his second trip to then plague-ridden Milan. Renzo witnesses how the rebellious masses form up and, after storming some bakeries, the popular anger is suddenly directed against the provisions’ administrator (“vicario della provvisione”) and the mob prepares to storm his house to lynch the scapegoat. Curious, he allows himself to be carried along by the crowd: “Prevalse di nuovo la curiosità.” (PS, XII, 222).139 The Milan Bread Riot acts as an exemplum for the political crisis. The escalation, the lynching, is prevented because Ferrer, who is in power and arrives with his carriage, rescues the provisions’ administrator from his house at the last moment. The popular uprising fails, leaving the mass of the people in the hands of an unjust ruler. Renzo’s interference in the proceedings corresponds structurally to Gertrude’s case in this; but it is a case in which Renzo can prove his ‘good nature’, a case from which he emerges not as a radical revolutionary but as a persecutor of an unjust justice. His curiosity, in contrast to the pernicious curiositas of the nun of Monza, turns into an intuitive moderation. And so he proves to be one of the brave, vigorous, and dedicated rescuers of the provisions’ administrator. He helps to clear a path for the carriage of the arriving Grand Chancellor to the house of the afflicted man, so that he can be saved from his pursuers. The narrator imputes to him a self-control in the midst of an uncontrollable crowd: Renzo, questa volta, si trovava nel forte del tumulto, non già portatovi dalla piena, ma cacciatovisi deliberatamente. […] l’idea dell’omicidio gli cagionò un orrore pretto e immediato. E quantunque, per quella funesta docilità degli animi appassionati all’affermare appassionato di molti, fosse persuasissimo che il vicario era la cagion principale della fame, il nemico de’ poveri, pure, avendo, al primo moversi della turba, sentita a caso qualche

 “The vortex attracted the spectator.” (p.264)  “[L]a frase ha indefinibile affinità con un’altra anch’essa brevissima e potentemente isolata, in tutt’altra situazione: “La sventurata rispose”: in entrambe il personaggio è come astratto in una sfera diversa dalla realtà”. (Cited in: Manzoni, I Promessi Sposi, ed. Stella/Repossi, p.785.) 138  “‘[…] Is this the land of milk and honey?’” (p.261)– It is the same deceptive, earthly-false land of milk and honey that the narrator ironically evokes at the end in reference to the fiancée’s marital happiness in Bergamo: “Per i nostri fu una nuova cuccagna.” (PS, XXXVIII, 672) (“For ours it was a new land of milk and honey.” p.853)– an indication of the circularity of the story and the dependence of fictional ‘marital happiness’ on being read. 139  “Once again, curiosity prevailed.” (p.282) 136 137

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parola che indicava la volontà di fare ogni sforzo per salvarlo, s’era subito proposto d’aiutare anche lui un’opera tale […]. (PS, XIII, 225)140

Renzo no longer allows himself to be blindly swept along by the masses, but finds himself “deliberatamente” in their midst. The possibility of the murder of the provisions’ administrator fills him with horror (“orrore”), even though he by no means sees through the causes of the famine. He believes in the guilt of the administrator, which, although he does not immediately pay with his life, he would like to see legitimately tried in a court of law. With this will, he saves– by accident– the provisions’ administrator. His naïve faith or will, according to which ‘there is justice on this earth after all’, is put to the test here on the public-political stage. The narratively brilliant chapter XIII, which depicts the prevented lynching of the provisions’ administrator, contains, among other things, Manzoni’s famous and sceptical reflections on the masses. As a power without law, the masses are in principle a danger, irrational, uncontrollable, chaotic and the opposite of an organised people (‘popolo’).141 It has been said that Manzoni elevates the masses to a figure in its own right, to a person. However, to a figure of menace, almost to a figure of evil, if one thinks of those passages in the Colonna Infame where it is suspected that behind the perverted passions of the judges there may have been, in the end, not even self-interest but sheer fear of the anonymous furor of the masses.142 It is true that there is a positive counter-image in the church-formed people of God who gather for sermons and worship– here we should recall Cardinal Borromeo’s parish visit (Chapters XXII and XXIII), which brings the rural population together, but also Padre Felice’s sermon in the plague hospital, with which the survivors are released into freedom (Chapter XXXVI)– but the novel identifies this community, since it is only a part of the whole, precisely not as a (politically) unified ‘popolo’, but merely as a “gente” (PS, XXI, 367; PS, XXXVI, 624) or “folla” (PS, XXXVI, 624) that must be ordered by the clergyman’s speech, a ‘parola’. The Milanese insurgents are now described at one point as a vast body of power lacking soul: Siccome però questa massa, avendo la maggior forza, la può dare a chi vuole, così ognuna delle due parti attive usa ogni arte per tirarla dalla sua, per impadronirsene: sono quasi due

 “This time Renzo found himself in the middle of the thickest tumult, not because he had been swept along by the crowd, but because he had thrown himself into it of his own free will. […] the thought of murder filled him with an immediate and pure horror. He was indeed, in consequence of the fatal susceptibility of passionate minds to passionate protestations of the masses, deeply convinced that the Provisions Administrator was chiefly to blame for the famine, and was an enemy to the poor; but when, by chance, as the crowd was setting out for his official residence, he heard some one say that he would do all he could to save that man, he had at once resolved to assist in this to the utmost of his power […].” (p.285) 141  Cf. Vincenzo Binetti, “Nozione di popolo e immagini della folla nei Promessi sposi di Alessandro Manzoni,” Romance Languages Annual 6 (1994), pp.213–219. 142  Cf. CI, Introduzione, 679, where it speaks of the fear (“timor”) of turning against the clamor of the crowd (“le grida della moltitudine”). 140


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anime nemiche, che combattono per entrare in quel corpaccio, e farlo movere. (PS, XIII, 229 f.)143

The two hostile souls fighting over the body will decide its direction of movement, in the case of the bread riot, whether violence will erupt against the administrator or whether it can be averted. Ferrer will avert it. In the carriage in which he makes his way through the masses, the political metaphor of the ship of state defying the storm of the masses echoes in parodic distortion: La gente si moveva, davanti e di dietro, a destra e a sinistra della carrozza, a guisa di cavalloni intorno a una nave che avanza nel forte della tempesta. Più acuto, più scordato, più assordante di quello della tempesta era il frastono. (PS, XIII, 234)144

In this, Renzo, serving with his physical strength as a dam against the surges of the deadly crowd, becomes a natural and at the same time comically illusionary part of the steering power of the ship, guiding the ‘body of the masses’, raging like a storm, in (apparently) the right direction. Together with the moderate part of the crowd, Renzo serves as ‘ala alla carrozza e argine alle due onde prementi di popolo’ (PS, XIII, 235; ‘trellis for the carriage and […] dam against the pressing surges of the crowd’, p.298). The closeness, even intimacy, that develops between him and the political ruler in the process is highly ironic: Renzo is as if making ‘friends’ with the Milanese Grand Chancellor Antonio Ferrer, who tries to subdue the insurgent people with sinister and effeminate gestures of ingratiation– with kisses of the hand to the crowd, a false smile, and snatches of Spanish phrases. Renzo’s natural, ‘good’ intention to speak out against violence remains blind to the strategies of political deception. Whereas Lucia, as will be seen below, will genuinely break the violence of domination in Innominato, Renzo’s contact with the powerful Ferrer remains a sham, ultimately lacking rationality. His curiositas is neither turned into guilt nor into good, political agency; it remains ambivalent in nature. Buoyed by his apparent success, in the subsequent chapter XIV, Renzo allows himself to be carried away by his famous revolutionary passionate speech against the false rulers, only to be arrested shortly afterwards in the “Osteria della luna piena” as a popular agitator. Compared to Lucia, Renzo thus becomes the literal ‘persecuted innocent’, the persecuted of an unjust regime.145  “But as this mass possesses the greatest power, and can bestow it on whom it pleases, each of the two active parties employs every means to draw it to its side and seize it. They are, as it were, two hostile souls struggling with each other to penetrate that great body and set it in motion.” (p.291) 144  “The crowd surged before and behind, to the right and left of the carriage, like high waves around a ship struggling forward in a fierce storm. Louder and more shrill than the roar of the storm was the deafening noise.” (p.296) 145  Interestingly, there is actually debate in the research regarding his incendiary speech and arrest as to whether or not he can be considered a lawbreaker. Mario A.Cattaneo argues (with C.Angelini) against Enrico Opocher the thesis of innocence: Renzo was a scapegoat of justice, a truly evangelical victim who paid for the guilt of others (cf. Mario A.Cattaneo: Carlo Goldoni e Alessandro Manzoni. Illuminismo e diritto penale, Milano: Giuffrè 1987, p.191). 143

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Renzo’s path proves to be one of linguistic and political disempowerment. His affects are increasingly neutralized and naturalized. To his religious conversion, vouched for in Fermo e Lucia by the act of swearing an oath, the promessi sposi inscribes radical doubt and latency, as the scene with Padre Cristoforo and the plague-stricken Don Rodrigo in the military hospital shows. Never does his insight transcend a natural affect. As is well known, the whole novel begins with the landscape of Lake Como. From a macroscopic bird’s-eye view of the water ‘between lake and river’, the narrator approaches, via water, mountains, coasts and towns, that path along which Don Abbondio’s momentous encounter with the Bravi takes place. In the movement from top to bottom and in the focussing of ‘the whole of nature’ on the path of the plot, as Umberto Eco observes, the whole providential structure of the novel is already apparent and thus a book, “il cui principale protagonista è qualcuno che guarda dall’alto le cose del mondo”.146 Eco is thus ultimately aiming at a narrator who is directing sovereignly, whereas my point here is to show how this direction is split into two main directions. Renzo’s function here is that of the natural: In his literary profanation, a free view of nature gradually clarifies itself.

Conversion, Impureand Natural The nature of the Promessi sposi is not a landscape in the aesthetic sense that Joachim Ritter has described it: not an antique-ordered cosmos that would theoretically-­aesthetically reveal itself to man in transcending contemplation of nature.147 Nature in itself is not good, it is fallen nature and whoever surrenders to it naively and enthusiastically succumbs to the mud of history. It has order and right not in itself, but in an unpredictable Creator, who at times, as with the plague, also turns against his creation. And yet Renzo is the idealistic, optimistic, sentimental, ridiculous, and sympathetic hero of the novel, who never ceases to believe in a redemptive experience of nature until the end. In his character, the narrator maintains hope for a good, free nature. For him, the mud of nature remains more liberating than forced words of forgiveness. The discourse of nature has not yet been systematically related to the character of Renzo. This may be because the description of the landscape that opens the novel is attributable to the narrator’s instance, and because perhaps the most famous nature episode of the Promessi sposi beside it, the ‘Addio ai monti’ just before the couple’s separation, is assigned to Lucia’s character.148 Giovanni Nencioni rightly notes that in the novel, with the exception of the opening tableau, nature appears only in corelationality with the characters. The term ‘natura’ appears only twice in the whole novel, in connection with the  Umberto Eco, “Indugiare nel bosco”, in id, Sei passeggiate nei boschi narrativi, Milan: Bompiani 1994, pp.61–90; here: p.90. 147  Joachim Ritter, “Landscape. Zur Funktion des Ästhetischen in der modernen Gesellschaft (1962)”, in id., Subjektivität. Sechs Aufsätze, Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp 1974, pp.141–163. 148  The elegy celebrates the departure from an idealized, innocent nature that does not exist in reality. This innocent nature coincides with an idyllic religion (which does not exist in reality either). 146


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thunderstorm at the plague hospital, which is presented mainly from Renzo’s perspective.149 This is no coincidence, as Renzo and nature become fused in the course of the novel. It is in nature that Renzo’s exposure takes place; in it he becomes the natural, profane hero of the novel and the complement of a denaturalized, sacralized Lucia. Nature is called nature only as a converted nature, purifed by the thunderstorm. Three stages, which I will discuss below, play a decisive role in this ‘natural conversion’: Renzo’s escape after his arrest in Milan, the famous description of his vineyard, and his return from Milan in the penultimate chapter of the novel. “‘Perchè, se posso essere uccel di bosco, […] non voglio diventare uccel di gabbia.’” (PS, XVI, 274)– “‘For if I can be a free forest bird, […] I don’t want to be a bird in a cage.’” (p.347) Thus Renzo thinks to himself as he runs away from the Milanese magistrates, preferring the cage of the convent to the road to Bergamo. Disoriented, he runs off, stops for a rest in Gorgonzola, walks along byways further into the night, and approaches the Adda, the border river between Milanese and Venetian territory. For an entire chapter (XVIII), the narrator describes Renzo’s nocturnal border and river crossing and his happy arrival at cousin Bortolo’s house. Fears and images haunt him until he hears the voice of the Adda. He spends a terrifying night in a small hut, falls into a fitful sleep of nightmares, and waits for dawn to come until he can have a fisherman take him across the river. Renzo’s night on the banks of the Adda is the counterpart to Lucia’s night at the Innominato’s castle. Just as Lucia’s wild fears, images and dreams are described there in rich detail– which in turn only anticipate those of the Innominato on the same night and in the same Chapter XXI– Renzo’s experience of escape on the river also suggests a kind of conversion. In the representation, nature and providentiality compete here: while elements are accumulated on the plot level that suggest a suspenseful turn (wasteland, bushes, forest, darkness, voice of the river, contradictory images, hearing the bell in the morning), the narrator frames this plot explicitly and at several points as a ‘providential’ one. This is not done so penetratingly anywhere else in the novel, where (as in the case of Innominato) the interpretive pattern of providentiality is usually conveyed through the novel’s (secondary) characters.150 Whereas Renzo’s predecessor hero Fermo crosses the Adda on only one page, evoking an inner  Cf. Giovanni Nencioni, La lingua di Manzoni, Bologna: il Mulino 1993, pp. 293–302 (“La natura e Renzo”); here: p.293. 150  Cf. already the last sentence of the XVI chapter (PS, XVI, p. 289): “[Renzo] andò diritto all’uscio, passò la soglia, e, a guida della Provvidenza, s’incamminò dalla parte opposta a quella per cui era venuto.” (“[Renzo] went to the door without further words, stepped out into the night [Kroeber translates the “passò la soglia” symbolically as “stepped out into the night”; note D.S.], and, guided by Providence, set out in reverse to the direction in which he had come.” p.367) Further: “Prima però di sdraiarsi su quel letto che la Provvidenza gli avveva preparato.” (PS, XVII, p.295) (“However, before he lay down on this bed that Providence had prepared for him […].” p.375) Then Renzo in direct speech: “‘[…] E poi, la Provvidenza m’ha aiutato finora […].’” (PS, XVIII, p.300f.) and “‘La c’è la Provvidenza!’” (“‘And after all, Providence has always helped me so far […].’” and “‘I told you, there is a Providence!’” pp.381 and 382) And finally, the last sentence of the chapter, which completes the ‘providential’ framing: “E fu veramente provvidenza […].” (PS, XVII, 306) (“And it was truly a providence of heaven”, p.388). 149

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conflict that seems at odds with a neutral nature, Promessi sposi narrates Renzo’s disjointedness as a walk into a Dantesque sublime nature that becomes all the more threatening to the subject the deeper he goes into it. Fermo, following in Robinson’s footsteps, marches confidently to the banks of the Adda, climbs a tree– as Robinson did when he was shipwrecked on the island– where he spends the hours until dawn half asleep– and is tormented by unpleasant “immagini”.151 Here he is Robinson and Aeneas rolled into one, for at the end of the flight cousin Bortolo welcomes him with the words of Dido: “Non ignara mali miseris succurrere disco” (FL, III, VIII, 494).152 Returning to Milan and swearing forgiveness before Padre Cristoforo in the plague hospital, Fermo will overcome his epic models Christianly by swearing forgiveness, analogous to Lucia. The poetic aemulatio of the early version becomes something more complicated in the Promessi sposi: instead of outdoing the epic heroes, Renzo flaunts their profanity. It is as if the narrator’s commentary from Fermo e Lucia on the classically Horatian, beautiful nature, which is juxtaposed with Fermo’s ugly, inner conflict, had provided Manzoni with the crucial idea for the elaboration of the chapter in the Promessi sposi. There we read about Fermo’s conflicting inner images: “due immagine”– Don Rodrigo, the magistrates, Ferrer on the one hand, and Padre Cristoforo, Lucia, Agnese on the other: Se noi inventassimo ora una storia a bel diletto, ricordevoli dell’acuto e profondo precetto del Venosino, ci guarderemmo bene dal riunire due immagini così disparate come quelle che si associavano nella mente di Fermo; ma noi trascriviamo una storia veridica; e le cose reali non sono ordinate con quella scelta, nè temperate con quella armonia che sono proprie del buongusto; la natura, e la bella natura, sono due cose diverse. (FL, III, VIII, 491)153

Nature and beautiful nature are two different things. And the beautiful nature of the riverbank at night in Fermo e Lucia does not match Fermo’s chaotic state of mind. Therefore, in the Promessi sposi, it is adapted to it: It becomes a phantasmatic-­ anthropomorphic nature that evokes in Renzo in the first place those ugly images of terror and beautiful images of consolation that in Fermo e Lucia are still referred to as the inner “lanterna magica” (FL, III, VIII, 492). Nature, actually a sideshow in the universal struggle for justice and justification in which the assertion of free will is at stake, becomes the main scene of the struggle for Renzo. The Adda crossing now has the function of presenting Renzo’s affect– after the anger of the first novel sequence and the profane curiositas in the first (political) Milan episode – as a struggling and wandering back and forth between nature and providentiality. In her study of the inner conflicts of Innominato, Lucia and also Renzo, Dorothea Kullmann

151  Cf. the chapter “Prima e dopo, con Robinson” in: Salvatore S.Nigro, La tabacchiera di Don Lisander. Saggio sui Promessi sposi, Turin: Einaudi 1996, pp.157–161. 152  “Even unfortunate, I now learn to assist unfortunate.” (Virgil, Aeneid, I, p.640.) 153  “Now, if we were to invent a story for a beautiful pleasure, which recalled the keen and profound rule of Horace, we would beware of bringing together two images so different as those which joined in Fermo’s sense; but we are transcribing a true story; and real things are not ordered according to that logic, nor are they tempered by that harmony which is in good taste. Nature and beautiful nature are two different things.”


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has come to the conclusion that Manzoni valorizes the concretely spoken or consciously thought word (“parola”, “pensiero”) to the detriment of visual or imaginary images (“immagine”, “fantasie”, “sogni”).154 The apologetic novelist is concerned with the concept of an imagination-critical, enlightened-rational conversion. As far as Renzo is concerned, however, it must be said that he does not form a single clear thought in his Night that goes beyond the situation of the here and now. Kullmann does go into his “immagini” as well, and sees in the literal speech “‘Quel che Dio vuole[…]’” (PS, XVII, 296; “‘It will go as God wills’”, p. 376), with which he inwardly acknowledges them, the corrective of a consciously pronounced “parola”.155 But it must be clearly seen that all the narrative steering towards providence or even conversion is ironically at odds with the scene itself.156 Renzo does not turn back, he is (still) on the run into history, whose hell– the plague in Milan– he has not yet reached. When he kneels down to pray in his uncomfortable camp, he realizes what he has done wrong in the past– namely, getting drunk at the osteria the night before instead of going to bed with the usual evening prayer– but he hears no voice– apart from the Adda– to tell him what he could do differently in the future.157 The path leads from culture to nature: “Cammina, cammina; arrivò dove la campagna coltivata moriva in una sodaglia sparsa di felci e di scope.” (PS, XVII, 293)158 It is thus a reversal of Renzo’s first journey to Milan, where he stops at one point to catch sight of “quella gran macchina del duomo” (PS, XI, 203) in front of him and “il suo Resegone” behind him (PS, XI, 203). In Renzo’s astonished gaze at the Milanese building and his sad retrospection of the Resegone’s homeland, a symbol has sometimes been seen for the exit from the idyll into history– or, just the other way around, one for the leaving behind of a tangled, passionate past.159 This reversibility of interpretive perspectives shows that it is not the landmarks of the landscape, whether the natural mountain range or the cultural (significantly not sacred!) architectural wonder that are decisive for Renzo, but the way in which he is confronted with these landmarks:  Dorothea Kullmann, “Rational Thought and the Word of God. Zur Nacht des Innominato und zur Bedeutung der parola in den Promessi Sposi,” Italian 28 (2006), pp.32–55. She relates this critique of imagination to the views of Pascal, Bossuet, Massillon, and those of the idéologues (esp. Destutt de Tracy) in order to confirm an apologetic novel intention. 155  Ibid., p.43. 156  In this sense, Enzo N. Girardi assesses the figure of Renzo: “Ma tutte queste cose in Renzo, come la sua fiducia nella Provvidenza, le sue abitudini di preghiera, la sua generosità, la sua pietà verso il dolore degli altri, il suo sincero sforzo di perdonare e la volonterosa adesione al comando che fra Cristoforo gli rivolge in questo senso, indicano appunto la buona disposizione, l’apertura di Renzo alla sfera superiore, ma non smentiscono, anzi confermano che la sua sfera è tuttavia diversa, che insomma chi guida il gioco del suo pensare e del suo agire non è qualcosa che abbia la sua origine fuori di questo mondo, ma qualcosa che ha le sue radici nel mondo e che può identificarsi volta a volta nell’istinto, nel temperamento, nella natura, nel costume.” (Enzo Noè Girardi, Struttura e personaggi dei Promessi Sposi, Milan: Jaca Book 1994, pp.66f.) 157  Cf. PS, XVII, p.295. 158  “He wandered on and came to a place where the cultivated land changed to a wasteland covered with bracken and heather.” (p.372) 159  Thus Bernsen, Stories and History, p.102, with reference to Baldi, L’Eden e la storia, pp.156f. 154

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La strada era allora tutta sepolta tra due alte rive, fangosa, sassosa, solcata da rotaie profonde, che, dopo una pioggia, divenivan rigagnoli; e in certe parti più basse, s’allagava tutta, che si sarebbe potuto andarci in barca. A que’ passi, un piccol sentiero erto, a scalini, sulla riva, indicava che altri passeggieri s’eran fatta una strada ne’ campi. Renzo, salito per un di que’ valichi sul terreno più elevato, vide quella gran’ macchina del duomo sola sul piano, come se, non di mezzo a una città, ma sorgesse in un deserto; e si fermò su due piedi, dimenticando tutti i suoi guai, a contemplare anche da lontano quell’ottava maraviglia, di cui aveva tanto sentito parlare fin da bambino. Ma dopo qualche momento, voltandosi indietro, vide all’orizzonte quella cresta frastagliata di montagne, vide distinto e alto tra quelle il suo Resegone, si sentì tutto rimescolare il sangue, stette lì alquanto a guardar tristamente da quella parte, poi tristamente si voltò, e seguitò la sua strada. (PS, XI, 203)160

The deep road is softened by a downpour, forcing him to leave the path, which is when his perception becomes productive. Renzo only sees something at all when nature becomes muddy and dirty. The Duomo, the eighth wonder of the world, triggers astonishment in him; the view of the Resegone sadness. Neither cathedral nor mountain, neither cultural nor natural monumentality and neither astonishment nor sadness bring him even one step closer to Lucia. Only a nature, into which Renzo enters, will bring solution, perhaps to transcend it, to look there at something else (Lucia, God, justice) (at least this is what the narrator suggests), but perhaps only to find and feel himself and be relieved of the Other. After the Milan adventure, Renzo struggles with a phantasmatically animated nature. Images, apparitions, haunting figures from stories he heard as a child threaten him: ‘immagini, certe apparizioni, lasciatevi in serbo dalle novelle sentite raccontar da bambino, così, per discacciarle, o per acquietarle, recitava, camminando, dell’orazioni per i morti’ (PS, XVII, 293).161 The power of the images grows according to the wildness of the place (“salvatichezza del luogo,” PS, XVII, 293). “A poco a poco, si trovò tra macchie più alte, di pruni, di quercioli, di marruche.” (PS, XVII, 293)162 And then: a forest (“un bosco”, PS, XVII, 293), which, together with moonlight, shadows, rustling leaves and night breezes, heightens fear and trembling to such an extent that they go through marrow and bone. But Renzo would not be

 “The road at that time ran between two high embankments; it was muddy, stony, and rutted with deep wheel-tracks, which after a rain became little streams; in particularly low places it was so flooded that one could have navigated it in a boat. In these places steep tramp-paths, leading up the embankment in steps, showed that other passers-by had sought a way across. When Renzo had climbed over one of these paths to higher ground, he saw the mighty edifice of Milan Cathedral rising alone out of the plain, as if it rose not in the midst of a city but in a desert, and as if rooted to the spot he stopped and forgot all his discomfiture in the face of this eighth wonder of the world, of which he had heard as a child. But then, looking around, he caught sight of the jagged line of mountains on the horizon, recognized clearly his towering resegone, felt his blood welling up, stood motionless for a while and looked back sadly, then turned sadly and continued on his way.” (p.258) 161  “[…] images […], certain haunting figures from the fairy tales and legends he had heard as a child, he would say supplications for the dead as he walked to chase them away or to appease them.” (p.372) 162  “Gradually his path led him through higher bushes of sloes, dwarf oaks, and buckthorn.” (p.372) 160


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Renzo if he did not overcome fear at the last moment. At the peak of horror, it is not nocturnal nature that frightens him, but a horror of horror: A un certo punto, quell’uggia, quell’orrore indefinito con cui l’animo combatteva da qualche tempo, parve che a un tratto lo soverchiasse. Era per perdersi affatto; ma atterrito, più che d’ogni altra cosa, del suo terrore, richiamò al cuore gli antichi spiriti, e gli comandò che reggesse. (PS, XVII, 294)163

In contrast to Lucia, who at the height of her anguish promises her life to the Virgin Mary, Renzo recalls ‘ancient spirits’– spirits that recall that “revocate animos” with which Aeneas urges his companions to persevere.164 Paradoxically, this meta-­affective self-reflection leads not to bold, momentous progress, but to the decision to turn back (‘risolveva d’uscir subito di lì’, PS, XVII, 294; ‘[he] decided to turn back on the spot’, p. 373).165 And at this very moment the anti-epic hero becomes a romantic listener to nature. The passage is too beautiful not to be quoted: E stando così fermo, sospeso il fruscìo de’ piedi nel fogliame, tutto tacendo d’intorno a lui, cominciò a sentire un rumore, un mormorìo, un mormorìo d’acqua corrente. Sta in orecchi; n’è certo; esclama: “è l’Adda!” Fu il ritrovamento d’un amico, d’un fratello, d’un salvatore. (PS, XVII, 294)166

The voice of the river reverses the decision he had only just made to turn back and revives the frozen Renzo: “sentì il sangue scorrer libero e tepido per tutte le vene”, (PS, XVII, 294; “he felt the blood flowing freely and warmly through his veins again”, p.373). But more than that, it leads to a change of narrative register, making nature, character, and narrator virtually one. The moment of listening interrupts the narrative to bring it into new flow. The sound becomes a murmur that condenses into the liquids of rumore, mormorìo, corrente, urging the pronunciation of the name, the word in general. The Adda is friend, brother, savior in one, selfknowledge of Renzo in the other. Renzo’s euphoric exclamatio is the poetic climax of the chapter and plot climax as far as his escape is concerned. In relation to the search for Lucia, however, crossing the Adda marks another obstacle rather than a step into ‘proper’ self and couple recognition. (Lucia’s ‘voto’, on the other hand, as will be seen below, advances the plot but produces no poetic outpourings). In Bergamo’s exile, Renzo literally becomes an Other: because the Milanese justice system has sunk its claws into the neighbouring country, he first adopts a  “At a certain point the vague shudder, the vague horror, with which he had been struggling for some time, seemed to overtake him. He was near to losing all courage, but more terrified at his own fright than at anything else, he recalled to his heart the old spirits of life and commanded them to stand firm.” (p.373) 164  Vergil, Aeneid, I, 202. 165  On this natural reaction of Renzo, see also Nencioni, La lingua di Manzoni, p.296: “La risoluzione di Renzo non è, in verità, né eroica né risolutiva; è una remissione alla propria impotenza fisica e morale, al proprio bisogno di accoglienza umana anche a prezzo di rischio.” 166  “And as he stands there like that, without stirring, so that even the leaves under his feet no longer rustle, and everything around him is perfectly still, he suddenly hears a low murmur, a murmur, a splash of running water. He listens, is sure, and joyfully he calls out: ‘The Adda!’ It was like finding an old friend again, a brother, a savior.” (p.373) 163

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pseudonym. As Antonio Rivolta, he bears in his name, as if in memory, turnaround and uprising. Even if he takes his name again after the danger, reversal and turning point have lost the character of irreversibility in his case. Renzo treads the terrain, he follows a zigzag path that is interrupted only momentarily by nature and– to which we will return in a moment– by the nature of an oblivious, spontaneous narrative. Thus disorientation accompanies his path as a leitmotif. If one assigns Renzo to an open outside and Lucia to a closed inside (concedes him a Bildungsroman and not Lucia), one forgets that Renzo’s outside basically encodes a labyrinth, a confinement in a lawless space. His fate is to be at the mercy of the impotence of justice and never to be in the situation of really having to decide. What he learns is the art of detour and non-decision. Once pursued by the justice system, Renzo is forced to take detours. But that is easier said than done: La conclusione fu che, andando così da destra a sinistra, e, come si dice, a zig zag, parte seguendo l’altre indicazioni che si faceva coraggio a pescar qua e là, parte correggendole secondo i suoi lumi, e adattandole al suo intento, parte lasciandosi guidar dalle strade in cui si trovava incamminato, il nostro fuggitivo aveva fatte forse dodici miglia, che non era distante da Milano più di sei; e in quanto a Bergamo, era molto se non se n’era allontanato. (PS, XVI, 278)167

Again and again the narrator points to Renzo’s hesitation between one path and the other– a ‘surface hesitation’ that has a counterpart in Gertrude’s and Lucia’s agonies of conscience and is no less threatening in its consequence of risking one’s will. Meandering walking and storytelling, detouring and suspension of purpose form the positive flip side of Renzo’s doubly empty and anaphoric doctrinal formulas of ‘ho imparato’. After his grandiose failed attempts at justice himself, first in the private sphere, then in the political, he stops chasing eternal laws and shifts to searching for moments of happiness.168 In this respect, the chimes that accompany Renzo’s restless night on the Adda and ring out in the morning are counter-voices to a nature in which one can sleep peacefully: a reminder not to forget. Renzo is not allowed to think longingly of a beautiful lover that night; rather, “una treccia nera” and “una barba bianca” (PS, XVII, 296; “a black braid and a white beard,” p.376) keep him from beautiful dreams.169 Unlike in the Innominato, the conflicting images – Fermo e Lucia still explicitly names a “terrore della dimenticanza” for  “The result was that our fugitive went criss-cross and, as they say, zigzag, partly following other information which he ventured to obtain here and there, partly correcting it as he saw fit to adapt it to his wishes, partly simply following the paths so that, having covered perhaps twelve miles, he was not more than six miles from Milan, and, as for Bergamo, could still say he was lucky if at least he had not strayed from it.” (p.352) 168  Antonio Pasqualino, Roberto Andò, Sandro Volpe assign Renzo a fundamental “incoscienza” in the courage that all characters have to prove as “fiducia in Dio” in the novel (this, “Dialogo col soprannaturale. Progetti d’azione e paura nei Promessi Sposi”, in: Manetti (ed.), Leggere I promessi sposi, pp.209–226; here: p.212). 169  Salvatore S.Nigro notes that this breaks the typical literary topos of presenting the beloved’s memory image synecdochically. He quotes “duo vaghi occhi” and “una bella treccia” from the Orlando furioso, XVI, 3, 2.– The two images of Padre Cristoforo and Lucia are complemented by a third– Agnese, who has chosen him as her son-in-law …– in which Renzo’s longing for a maternal law is expressed. 167


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Lucia (FL, III, VIII, 492; “horror of oblivion,” own translation)– do not arouse a diffuse desire for conversion, but simply a feeling of unwillingness, which the narrator addresses with a “Che letto matrimoniale!” (PS, XVII, 296; “What a marriage bed!”, p.376). Once Renzo has almost been put on trial, he flees, one could say, any court, secular or supernatural. To him, nature becomes the other of law, the oblivion of (even love) law. He does not regard it as an object of knowledge, and even less does he perceive it as beautiful nature. He is blind to the beauty of the LombardMontane morning sky, eloquently described by the narrator, because his gaze is limited to his path.170 This mimicry of Renzo to nature becomes even clearer in the famous vineyard scene: after more than a year and a half (and more than ten chapters of the novel), Renzo, cured of the plague,171 returns to his homeland in September 1630. Miserably enlightened by Agnese about Lucia’s situation and her ‘strange’ vow in a complicated correspondence of semi-illiteracy, he leaves his cousin to seek Lucia in Milan via the detour of his native village– another detour. Bortolo bids him farewell with the advice, “‘cerca di schivar la giustizia, com’io cercherò di schivare il contagio[…]’” (PS, XXXIII, 572).172 How immune the plague disease has actually made Renzo will be seen in Milan, where, maligned as an ointment smearer, he jumps on a corpse cart to shake off his pursuers. Among the few plague survivors in his village, he meets Don Abbondio, who cannot understand Renzo’s quest and in turn advises him, “‘[…] In nome del cielo, cosa venite a far qui? Tornate…’” (PS, XXXIII, 578).173 One might expect Renzo to angrily, vigorously hold Lucia up to him as a target, but instead he replies, “‘Sempre l’ha con questo tornare, lei. Per tornare, tanto n’avevo a non movermi. […]’” (PS, XXXIII, 578).174 There is not much left either of his anger at Don Rodrigo, whose miserable plague end is not coincidentally reported in the same Chapter XXXIII, or of his curiosity about the world. Renzo returns to his village a survivor, a survivor who no longer seeks justice but only what the prevailing injustice has left of it, ‘mere life’.175 In a sad, nostalgic, sentimental mood, he arrives at his home and his small vineyard, which gives the narrator occasion for a barely two-page digression, placed in explicit contrast to the character– the ‘padrone’ of the vineyard: “Ma questo non si curava d’entrare in una tal vigna; e forse non istette tanto a guardarla, quanto noi a farne questo po’ di

 Cf. PS, XVII, 297f.  “[L]a sua buona complessione vinse la forza del male.” (PS, XXXIII, 571) (“[S]a good constitution overcame the illness”, p.725.) 172  “‘Strive to escape justice as I strive to escape contagion[…]’” (p.726) 173  “‘[…] In the name of God, what are you doing here? Go back…’” (p.732) 174  “‘Always you with your going back! If you want me to go back, I needn’t have gone in the first place. […]’” (p.733) 175  Raimondi speaks of Renzo’s return to the village as an “iniziazione al livello di un’umanità spoglia, quasi elementare” (Raimondi, Il romanzo senza idillio, p.183). 170 171

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schizzo.” (PS, XXXIII, 580)176 The first thing to notice is that Renzo does not read in the vineyard he once cultivated. He does not expect– unlike when he crossed the Adda– any meaningful sign to speak to him. His old home is mute, with no redeeming murmur, no orienting chimes, no narrator’s hints of a ‘provvidenza’. When he reaches his village he is tormented by painful memories and forebodings; inwardly those bells are hammering within him which rang on the night of the flight (‘que’ sinistri tocchi a martello’, PS, XXXIII, 574), outwardly there is deathly silence (‘silenzio di morte’, PS, XXXIII, 574). Tonio, − once the most important accomplice for the secret wedding, but now stupefied by the plague and stammering– is the first person he meets. Then Don Abbondio, who reminds him of his warrant and lists all the plague victims in the village, including Perpetua. For his lodging, Renzo can only think of an old friend– one who no longer even has a name– whose hospitality will be his only and all the more touching comfort that evening. Before that, on the way there, the sight of his overgrown vineyard and the no less devastated cottage populated by spiders and rats: E andando, passò davanti alla sua vigna; e già dal di fuori potè subito argomentare in che stato la fosse. Una vetticciola, una fronda d’albero di quelli che ci aveva lasciati, non si vedeva passare il muro; se qualcosa si vedeva, era tutta roba venuta in sua assenza. S’affacciò all’apertura (del cancello non c’eran più neppure i gangheri); diede un’occhiata in giro: povera vigna! Per due inverni di seguito, la gente del paese era andata a far legna “nel luogo di quel poverino”, come dicevano. (PS, XXXIII, 579)177

Much has been written and speculated about the subsequent ‘little vineyard sketch’ by the narrator, who describes in detail– botanizing and moralizing. Yes, it can be assumed that the staged naturalness of this vineyard seduces one to just such natural interpretations.178 Even if Renzo’s vineyard may rightly have taken on a life of its own as a mise en abyme of the novel, what matters to me above all intertextual or allegorical references is that it is about Renzo’s vineyard, about his property, from which he bids farewell as “padrone” at this point in the novel with an “occhiata in  “But this one did not even think of entering such a vineyard, and perhaps he did not even stop to look at it as long as it took us to draw this little study.” (p.736) 177  “On his way he passed his vineyard, and even from the outside he could see at once what state it was in. Not a top, not a twig of the trees he had planted, protruded above the wall any more; if anything was seen protruding there, it was of the growths that had spread in the meantime. He stepped into the opening (not even the hinges of the gate were visible any more) and glanced round: what a sad sight! For two winters the people of the village had come here to make wood, to ‘that poor fellow’s place,’ as they said.” (p.734) 178  Apart from the commentaries on the novel, I refer in particular to: S.Eugene Scalia, “Ancora la vigna di Renzo”, Italica 17 (1949), pp.138–143.– As far as I can see, he is one of the few who reads the scene decidedly against the background of Renzo’s story. In this I follow him. More generalized readings can be found in: Giorgio Bàrberi-Squarotti, “Il significato della ‘vigna di Renzo’ (1965)”, in id, Angelo Jacomuzzi (eds.), Letteratura e critica. Antologia della critica italiana. L’Ottocento e il Novecento, Messina/Firenze: Casa Editrice G. d’Anna 1970, pp.100–103, and Romano Luperini, ‘Il silenzio dell’allegoria: la vigna di Renzo’, Belfagor 54/1 (1999), pp.11–23. Evolutionary biology and socio-political views avant la lettre sees Bernsen, Geschichten und Geschichte, pp.197–207 (‘Renzo’s Vineyard’). 176


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giro” in a profane-sentimental way. In Fermo e Lucia, the vineyard scene does not yet exist; it is thus directly connected to the rewriting of Renzo’s history, which systematically weaves in the discourse of nature. With the nostalgic view of the overgrown vineyard– “povera vigna!”– Renzo ceases to counter the injustice of the world with a justice of his own in the form of the small, patriarchal oikos. Significantly, there is no mention here of a sense of responsibility towards the small estate inherited from his father. It is also questionable, the narrator ironically suggests, who is actually poor here: the vineyard or Renzo– “quel poverino”, as the villagers say, who have spent the last two years making wood from his garden. In passing– “andando, passò la sua vigna”– Renzo realizes that the Milanese arrest warrant also entailed the abandonment of his right to the role of pater familias. One can think here of the passage from the Colonna Infame, where the terrible feeling of Mora’s family is evoked, that terror of children and wives who have to see their husband and father taken from their own home by the justice system.179 Renzo escapes arrest, but in his flight he comes to resemble the lawless, naturalized culture that the narrator describes, as it were, in the place of inner uprooting. He (still) does not know whether there is any (‘education’ to) justice in this world. The narrator’s tableau of nature has the function of mirroring such an absence of order, an ambivalent naturalness. And in mirroring, the tableau compensates for Renzo’s sentimental passivity. The essential characteristic of this nature is disorderliness: the weeds spreading over the uprooted cultivated plants are described as “marmaglia” (PS, XXXIII, 579; “thicket”, p. 734), “guazzabuglio di steli” (PS, XXXIII, 579; “tangle of stems”, p.735) and “confusione di foglie” (PS, XXXIII, p.579; “tangle of leaves”, p.735). Renzo’s ‘work’, his cultural work– “i vestigi dell’antica coltura”– is still visible in traces, but the narrator’s attention is not on the vines, mulberry trees and fruit trees that should be growing here, but on the natural force, energeia, of the plants overgrowing everything: “una nuova, varia e fitta generazione, nata e cresciuta senza l’aiuto della man dell’uomo” (PS, XXXIII, p.579).180 This force is put before the reader in detailed and vivid description as the weeds, for one, are given names and the individual plants, for another, not only grow but interact anthropomorphically. The power of nature corresponds to a power of description. Ortiche, felci, logli, gramigne, farinelli, avene salvatiche, amaranti verdi, radicchielle, acetoselle, panicastrelle, uva turca, tasso barbasso, cardi, vilucchioni, gelso, zucca salvatica, and above all il rovo, brambles grow there without end (PS, XXXIII, 579 f.; nettles, ferns, lolch, couch grass, melder, wild oats, green amaranth, dandelion, sorrel, bristly millet, pokeweed, mullein, thistles, fence bindweed, mulberry, fence turnip, pp.734f.). Corresponding to the chaos of their shapes, colors, and sizes is a phonetic and rhythmic order: “una confusione di foglie, di fiori, di frutti, di cento colori, di cento forme, di cento grandezze: spighette, pannocchiette, ciocche, mazzetti,

 Cf. CI, IV.  “[E]ine[ ] new[ ], diverse[ ], and dense[ ] vegetation that had developed and spread without the aid of man.” (p.734) 179 180

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capolini bianchi, rossi, gialli, azzurri.”181 The manifold plants not only grow, they tendril up one another, twine, overgrow one another in the air, overtake one another on the ground, tower up high or bend down low. As often happens to the weak, it is said in an explicit comparison, when they want to seek a foothold, they pull each other down. Nature and culture seem here both to coincide and to fall together. No wonder this little sketch has irritated readers: Renzo’s vineyard, biblical allegory par excellence, makes one wonder not only where man has gone, but where God has gone in it. There is no mention of divine providence, unlike in the scene of the Adda crossing. The object predestined for figuralization becomes the scandal of an unreadable nature. The readings that referentially suspend this proliferation of nature are all somehow plausible, just as, on the other hand, they must necessarily remain deficient. Thus S.Eugene Scalia writes in 1940: Si è molto strogolato sul significato e ragion d’esser della minuta descrizione della vigna di Renzo fatta dal Manzoni nel capitolo XXXIII dei Promessi sposi. Chi ci ha voluto vedere dello Shakespeare, chi dello Scott, chi un omaggio alla voga romantica, chi del realismo in anticipo, chi della parodia del padre Bresciani o del Bartoli, chi dell’allegoria patriottica, chi del virtuosismo da dilettante d’agricoltura, chi della nomenclatura pura e semplice.182

Scalia criticizes, rightly I think, the abstraction of the passage from the novel’s plot. The narrator’s digression, he argues, takes Renzo’s affect – grief, despair, speechlessness in the face of his ruined farm work– as a poetic-sentimental occasion for the most effective dissemination of Tuscan botanical vocabulary.183 Scalia draws attention to an ambiguity of narrative perspective that is indeed important: it is not made out that Renzo does not take as much time to look at his vineyard as the narrator does to describe it in detail: ‘e forse [Herv. D.S.]’– perhaps – ‘non istette tanto a guadarla’, we are told in the passage quoted above.184 If it is the case that the perspectives of narrator and character become blurred, the energetic description, which relies entirely on the actus of bringing forth, compensates for Renzo’s passive affect of grief. Affect suddenly brings forth a new, unknown knowledge in plant nomenclature. Indeed, when he hears from Don Abbondio about all the people who  “[E]very jumble of leaves, flowers, and fruits in countless shapes, colors, and sizes: Spikes, panicles, clusters, umbels, white, red, yellow, blue baskets.” (p.735) 182  “Much has been made of the meaning and raison d’être of Manzoni’s minute description of Renzo’s vineyard in Chapter XXXIII of Promessi sposi. Some have wanted to see in it some Shakespeare, some some Scott, some a homage to the Romantic vogue, some advance realism, some parody of Father Bresciani or Bartoli, some patriotic allegory, some agricultural amateur virtuosity, some pure and simple nomenclature.” Scalia, “Ancora la vigna di Renzo,” p.138. 183  The Italian nomenclature is reviewed by Claudio Marani, Il sentimento rurale in Manzoni, Milan 1937, and Maurizio and Letizia Corgnati, Alessandro Manzoni “fattore di Brusuglio”, Milan 1984 (cited in: Manzoni, I Promessi Sposi, ed. Stella/Repossi, p.1051). It corresponds to the classification of Ottaviano Targioni Tozzetti, Lezioni di agricoltura specialmente toscana, Florence pp.1802–1804. 184  And in this respect Luperini is to be contradicted when he writes: “Indubbiamente questo della vigna è un motivo che i formalisti russi avrebbero definito ‘libero’, sciolto da legami con la fabula e inessenziale per la trama. La vigna non è neppure colta attraverso lo sguardo di Renzo, che– ci informa il narratore– non indugia affatto a guardarla.” (Luperini, “Il silenzio dell’allegoria,” p.13.) 181


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had succumbed to the plague, he becomes perplexed: “Renzo rimase lì tristo e scontento, a pensar dove anderebbe a fermarsi.” (PS, XXXIII, 578)185 Even on the road to the village, littered with plague dead, Renzo’s despair is contrasted with the fertility and abundance of nature: Frutte, n’aveva a sua disposizione, lungo la strada, anche più del bisogno: fichi, pesche, susine, mele, quante n’avesse volute; bastava ch’entrasse ne’ campi a coglierne, o a raccattarle sotto gli alberi, dove ce n’era come se fosse grandinato; giacchè l’anno era straordinariamente abbondante, di frutte specialmente; e non c’era quasi chi se ne prendesse pensiero: anche l’uve nascondevano, per dir così, i pampani, ed eran lasciate in balìa del primo occupante. (PS, XXXIII, 574)186

In no character of the novel are plague and land of milk and honey, potential bliss and destruction so close together as in Renzo. The narrator gradually confers on him the role of a natural receptive attitude; he passivizes the character’s nature, thereby justifying a potentially perpetually culpable affect as nature. This is precisely what Renzo ‘rests around’ as much as his ‘own’ nature and ‘his vineyard’ epitomises. Here sprouts a nature that, as the introduction to Colonna Infame says, has the beautifully terrible power of nightmare: Ci par di vedere la natura umana spinta invincibilmente al male da cagioni indipendenti dal suo arbitrio, e come legata in un sogno perverso e affannoso, da cui non ha mezzo di riscotersi, di cui non può nemmeno accorgersi. (CI, Introduction, 680)187

The vineyard scene shows Renzo’s subjectivity in precisely this dreamlike, latently evil nature.188 Real insight, waking up from the nightmare, definitive conversion, self-conscious forgiveness of his adversary, the judging voice of God– all these are denied or spared to Renzo and replaced by hearing Lucia’s voice. While Lucia is the one who sees through the mystery of human nature but never enjoys it, Renzo is the one who never sees through nature but continually enjoys it. Chapter XXXVI, in which Renzo finds Lucia again in the Milanese hospital, Padre Cristoforo dissolves the vow of chastity, and the couple speak meaningfully together, is considered to be the actually happily resolved ending of the novel. For Renzo, the events at the plague hospital remain a hell without judgment and without decisive redemption from the nightmare of the story. His divine judgment is a  “Renzo was left dejected, wondering where he should now spend the night.” (p.734)  “Fruit was at his disposal along the road, more than enough: figs, peaches, plums, apples, as much as he wanted, he had only to go into the fields to pick them, or to pick them up from under the trees, where they lay close together like hailstones; for the year had been extraordinarily productive, especially of fruit, and there was almost no one to take it. The grapes, too, were so thick that they almost hid the vine leaves, and were left to the grasp of the first interested party.” (p.728) 187  “We think we see human nature driven inevitably to evil by causes which do not depend on its will, as if it were bound in a perverse and agonizing dream from which it is unable to free itself, or even to recognize as such.” (p.20f.) 188  Vittorio Hösle writes: “Typical of Manzoni’s conception of nature is the section on Renzo’s vineyard in chapter XXXIII.In the midst of the wildest rages of the plague, vegetation shoots up there horny and unrestrained without the ordering hand of man.” (Alessandro Manzoni: The Betrothed, Munich: Fink 1975, p.37.) 185 186

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profanely natural thunderstorm without thunder and lightning, that is, without the compulsion to confess his innermost being, his subjectivity. While Lucia ‘speaks herself clean’ before Padre Cristoforo, Renzo is ‘washed dirty’ in the thundershower of the penultimate chapter of the novel. The dramaturgy of the thunderstorm accompanies Renzo’s second journey into plague-ridden Milan; it announces itself as soon as he enters the city: Il tempo era chiuso, l’aria pesante, il cielo velato per tutto da una nuvola o da un nebbione uguale, inerte, che pareva negare il sole, senza prometter la pioggia; la campagna d’intorno, parte incolta, e tutta arida; ogni verzura scolorita, e neppure una gocciola di rugiada sulle foglie passe e cascanti. Per di più, quella solitudine, quel silenzio, così vicino a una gran città, aggiungevano una nuova costernazione all’inquietudine di Renzo, a rendevan più tetri tutti i suoi pensieri. (PS, XXXIV, 585 f.)189

Commentators point out that Manzoni could have gleaned the idea of the cleansing thunderstorm after the plague of Milan from Ripamonti. The resolution of the novel’s plot and the cathartic effect of nature would thus be closely linked. But the calculation does not work out so simply, for not only does the thunderstorm theme seem contrived in view of the tragedies that then take place in the city: pitiful images of dying and suffering, piles of corpses, the pietà image of the young mother defending her daughter’s corpse against the assaults of the Monatto, Renzo himself being persecuted as a Monatto, etc. The thematization of the thunderstorm, moreover, remains functionally tied to Renzo’s emotional state, a quasi-external supplement to an inner voice of God that magnifies or makes palpable his “inquietudine.” It is not a realistic natural spectacle colliding with the cityscape, but a naturalized judgment whose thundering verdict is omitted in favor of a redemptive rain – and hearing Lucia’s voice. The thunderstorm mood is invoked when Renzo is on the move, when he passes thresholds, first when he enters the town, a second time, longer and more elaborately, in Chapter XXXV when he enters the lazaretto. Here, much like Renzo’s vineyard, it intensifies into a personified nature sighing towards redemption: L’aria stessa e il cielo accrescevano, se qualche cosa poteva accrescerlo, l’orrore di quelle viste. La nebbia s’era a poco a poco addensata e accavallata in nuvoloni che, rabbuiandosi sempre più, davano idea d’un annottar tempestoso; se non che, verso il mezzo di quel cielo cupo e abbassato, traspariva, come da un fitto velo, la spera del sole, pallida, che spargeva intorno a sè un barlume fioco e sfumato, e pioveva un calore morto e pesante. (PS, XXXV, 608)190

 “The weather was sultry, the air oppressive, the sky obscured by a single great cloud, or a uniform, languid mist of fog, which completely veiled the sun without announcing rain. The country around was partly uncultivated and entirely parched, all green was faded, and not a drop of dew lay on the withered, drooping leaves. No wonder that this solitude, this emptiness and silence so near a great city, increased Renzo’s uneasiness by a new dismay, and made all his thoughts more gloomy.” (p.743) 190  “Even the air and the sky increased the horror of those sights, so far as it could be increased at all. The misty haze had gradually thickened and gathered into great clouds, which darkened more and more, giving the impression of a thunderous twilight; only that in the midst of this low, gray sky stood indistinctly, as behind a thick veil, the pale disk of the sun, spreading a dull, hazy glow around it, and producing an oppressive, paralyzing sultriness.” (p.771f.) 189


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Renzo’s attitude is completely passive; what awaits him is not a judicial voice forcing him to turn back, but the loving voice of Lucia, which, after Padre Cristoforo will have led him to Don Rodrigo, he will then hear in the subsequent Chapter XXXVI.Although the sky grows ever blacker and the sultriness ever more oppressive, the rumble of thunder remains in the distance, or rather it transforms itself into the lazaretto itself: Ogni tanto, tra mezzo al ronzìo continuo di quella confusa moltitudine, si sentiva un borbottar di tuoni, profondo, come tronco, irresoluto; nè, tendendo l’orecchio, avreste saputo distinguere da che parte venisse; o avreste potuto crederlo un correr lontano di carri, che si fermassero improvvisamente. (PS, XXXV, 608.)191

The sounds of suffering creatures and plague carts in the lazaretto mingle with an unlocatable rumble of thunder to form an indistinguishable rumble. And analogous to the visually and botanically inspired poetry of Renzo’s vineyard, here the noise becomes poetically productive, as in this hendecasyllable, in which the ‘o’s cluster together: ‘si sentiva un borbottar di tuoni,/profondo, come tronco, irresoluto’. Thunderstorm and plague nature merge into a single groaning unity in need of redemption, echoing Paul’s image of creation in travail:192 Era uno […] di que’ tempi forieri della burrasca, in cui la natura, come immota al di fuori, e agitata da un travaglio interno, par che opprima ogni vivente, e aggiunga non so quale gravezza a ogni operazione, all’ozio, all’esistenza stessa. […] nè forse su quel luogo di miserie era ancor passata un’ora crudele al par di questa. (PS, XXXV, 609)193

The scene is set by an ambivalent autonomy of nature, quite similar to Renzo’s vineyard, which stands between renewal and destruction, life and death. In Chapter XXXVI that follows, when Renzo wanders searchingly through the hospital and finally hears Lucia’s voice from behind a plank wall, it is no coincidence that this voice soothes the fear of a plague-stricken man before the impending storm: “‘Paura di che?’ diceva quella voce soave: ‘abbiam passato ben altro che un temporale. Chi ci ha custodite finora, ci custodirà anche adesso.’” (PS, XXXVI, 627)194 Lucia’s voice calms the thunderstorm, taking the place of the divine sentence. Lightning and thunder discharge just between Lucia’s reunion and Renzo’s revisiting Padre

 “Now and then, above the ceaseless buzzing of voices in this great gathering, one heard a low, irresolute rumble of thunder, as if stifled, but one could not have told, even by pricking up one’s ears, from what direction it came, or one might have mistaken it for a distant rumble of carts.” (p.772) 192  Cf. Rom 8:22: “For we know that the whole creation groans and travails to this day.” 193  “There prevailed […] that kind of stormy mood in which nature, outwardly apparently unmoved, but agitated by an inner anguish, seems to press down every living thing, and to burden all doing, all doing nothing, even mere existence, with a peculiar heaviness. […] Perhaps never had so cruel an hour come upon this place of woe.” (p.772) 194  “‘Afraid of what?’ she says softly just now. ‘We’ve weathered a lot different things than a thunderstorm. He who has sheltered us hitherto will do so again this time.’” (p.794) 191

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Cristoforo to resolve the problem of the vow.195 But Renzo is deaf to their menace in the face of the sweet purring of Lucia’s voice; Renzo is not terribly receptive to Padre Cristoforo’s marriage liturgy, and it is only when he leaves the hospital again that he is reborn in the redemptive thundershower: Renzo, in vece d’inquietarsene [before the rain; note D. S.], ci sguazzava dentro, se la godeva in quella rinfrescata, in quel susurrìo, in quel brulichìo dell’erbe e delle foglie, tremolanti, gocciolanti, rinverdite, lustre; metteva certi respironi larghi e pieni; e in quel risolvimento della natura sentiva come più liberamente e più vivamente quello che s’era fatto nel suo destino. (PS, XXXVII, 642)196

Renzo’s walk back to the village is the goal and climax of his anti-epic-romanesque conversion: he is afflicted by an ambivalent nature, and that means: purified and redeemed, but also soiled and exposed. His path via Sesto, Monza, Pescate and Pescarenico is the path of an eternally deficient anamnesis, through which a comic eureka– ‘I found her again!’– runs. As he walks and remembers, Renzo gets dirtier and dirtier, which he finds odd because, he thinks he ought to look as splendid as he feels: Diede un’occhiata anche a sè, e si trovò un po’ strano, quale, per dir la verità, da quel che si sentiva, s’immaginava già di dover parere: sciupata e attaccata addosso ogni cosa: dalla testa alla vita, tutto un fradiciume, una grondaia; dalla vita alla punta de’ piedi, melletta e mota: le parti dove non ce ne fosse si sarebbero potute chiamare esse zacchere e schizzi. E se si fosse visto tutt’intero in uno specchio, con la tesa del cappello floscia e cascante, e i capelli stesi e incollati sul viso, si sarebbe fatto ancor più specie. (PS, XXXVII, 645)197

Renzo’s rage has turned into the profane wonder of a free forest bird: the wonder of a filthy, happy and capturable nature, open, receptive to a feminine, erotic-caritative seductive law that does not condemn but satisfies (survival) desire.198

 Cf. PS, XXXVI, p.635.  “But instead of sheltering himself from it [the rain; note D.S.], he plunged into it with relish, enjoying the refreshment, the rush, the brisk germination of the trembling, dripping grasses and leaves, which were again becoming green and shining. He sucked in the air to the full, and in this redemptive discharge of nature felt, as it were, still more freely and vividly the redeeming turn that had taken place in his destiny.” (p.813) 197  “He took a look at himself, too, and thought himself a little strange, for, to tell the truth, he had probably thought he looked as splendid as he felt: everything he had on was soaked through and stuck to his body; from head to hip everything was dripping wet, a single eave, from hip to toe all mud and excrement, and even the places where the dirt had not reached might still have been called splattered and filthy. And if he had seen himself in a mirror, with the brim of his hat hanging limply down, and his hair caked on, stuck in his face, he would have wondered still more.” (p.817). 198  Presumably, moreover, an allusion to Renzo is hidden in the swallow mentioned in the description of the hospital thunderstorm: “Non si vedeva, nelle campagne d’intorno, moversi un ramo d’albero, nè un uccello andarvisi a posare, o staccarsene: solo la rondine, comparendo subitamente di sopra il tetto del recinto, sdrucciolava in giù con l’ali tese, come per rasentare il terreno del campo; ma sbigottita da quel brulichìo, risaliva rapidamente, e fuggiva.” (PS, XXXV, p.608) (“In the fields all around, not a twig stirred on a tree, not a bird settled or flew up; only a swallow suddenly appeared above the lazaretto [actually: ‘above the roof of the enclosure’; note D.S.], came down with outspread wings to skim close over the ground, but, frightened by the throng, rose again as quick as an arrow and flew away,” p.772). 195 196


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Nascitur Renzo: TheDream oftheProfane Narrative Renzo’s dream of being born again is, if nothing else, the dream of the sentimental romance novel. As far as I can see, no one has deciphered this profane novel of Renzo’s so meticulously, so lovingly– and so much at the expense of the female protagonist!– as Salvatore Nigro in La tabacchiera di don Lisander.199 “Renzo ama raccontare a se stesso”;200 again and again he pauses on his zigzagging journey to imagine the happy outcome of his story. As he flees across the Adda, he imagines how he will soon be able to lead an idyllic family life together with Agnese and Lucia: Che piacere, andar passeggiando su questa stessa strada tutti insieme! Andar fino all’Adda in baroccio, e far merenda sulla riva, proprio sulla riva, e far vedere alle donne il luogo dove mi sono imbarcato, il prunaio da cui sono sceso, quel posto dove sono stato a guardare se c’era un battello. (PS, XVII, 302)201

Renzo dreams of a bourgeois life, with Nigro: of a kind of idyllic déjeuner sur l’herbe. Indeed, his rise is pre-programmed from the start. As we learn in the second chapter when his character is introduced, Renzo masters the craft of silk spinning, but runs his small estate (“poderetto”) on the side. Economic exile in the Republic of Venice, regardless of the trouble Don Rodrigo causes, is a realistic option given the poor career prospects of silk spinners in the Duchy of Milan. He takes the aberration of politics involuntarily; what he seeks is private, innocent happiness, less work and time to tell about it. He is therefore all the more indignant when, incognito, he has to listen to his own Milanese history, distorted and falsified by a merchant, in the inn of Gorgonzola: One of the rebellious ringleaders, who had made incendiary speeches, had been arrested by the justice in an inn. He had letters in his pocket, they wanted to put him in prison, but his accomplices had made sure that he managed to escape …202 Still on the night flight across the Adda, Renzo indignantly confronts the slanderer in his mind and inculcates him in inner, direct speech: “E imparate a parlare un’altra volta; principalmente quando si tratta del prossimo.” (PS, XVII, 291)203 Ironically, this is precisely the lesson that it will be said at the end of the novel that he, Renzo (!), will have learned: “Allora s’accorse che le parole fanno un effetto in bocca, e un altro negli orecchi; e prese un po’ più d’abitudine d’ascoltar

 Cf. especially the introduction “Viaggio sentimentale attorno a una tabacchiera” and the chapter “Tanti romanzi, a conferma”, pp.3–11 and pp.162–173. 200  Nigro, La tabacchiera di don Lisander, p.162. 201  “How nice it will be when we all walk together here on this road then! When we go down to the Adda in a little wagon and have a snack on the bank, just where I landed, and I show the women the place over there where I got into the boat, and the thorny bushes through which I climbed down, and the place above where I had been looking out for a boat.” (p.383) 202  Cf. PS, XVI, 288f. 203  In Kroeber’s translation, unfortunately, the eye-catching “imparare” is omitted: “So in the future, please consider what you say, especially when it concerns your neighbor!” (p.370) 199

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di dentro le sue, prima di proferirle.” (PS, XXXVIII, 671)204 In the end, he has learned to use his words a little bit better; he has learned not to do a lot of things, but in principle, in the end, unlike the confessed Lucia, he has become the prime case of an unreliable narrator of private, pseudo-political, profane fictions. Renzo even competes with the anonymous baroque author for the authorship of the story. The narrator confides this to the reader late, in the penultimate chapter, when he recounts Renzo’s return home in the pouring rain: […] chè lui medesimo, il quale soleva raccontar la sua storia molto per minuto, lunghettamente anzi che no (e tutto conduce a credere che il nostro anonimo l’avesse sentita da lui più d’una volta), lui medesimo, a questo punto, diceva che, di quella notte, non se ne rammentava che come se l’avesse passata in letto a sognare. (PS, XXXVII, 644)205

Neither the narrator nor Renzo himself are able to tell how he found his way back to the Adda that night; “e tutto conduce a credere che il nostro anonimo l’avesse sentita da lui più d’una volta”– the return in mud and darkness is the culmination of his story, congealed in memory into a sweet dream in bed. And in all dreamlikeness, Renzo again imagines the narrative retrospective of his fabulous life, in which he has found his Lucia again against all earthly (mis)justice: il gran lavoro della sua mente era di riandare la storia di que’ tristi anni passati: tant’imbrogli, tante traversìe, tanti momenti in cui era stato per perdere anche la speranza, e fare andata ogni cosa; e di contrapporci l’immaginazioni d’un avvenire così diverso: e l’arrivar di Lucia, e le nozze, e il metter su casa, e il raccontarsi le vicende passate, e tutta la vita. (PS, XXXVII, 644)206

It is the somnambulistic Renzo to whom the narrator, in the end, increasingly ascribes the role, the responsibility, but also the guilt for a narrative that can hardly be distinguished from dreaming and drunken fabrication. It is not by chance that during the episode in the “Osteria della luna piena”, where Renzo gets drunk for the first time in his life, the narrator refers to him in narrative distancing as “primo uomo della nostra storia” (PS, XIV, 253). And it is no accident that the simple-­ minded mountain man here displays an unconscious poetic streak, ironized by the narrator, that is more about glib wordplay than the sanctuary of the muses. When he is put to bed by the innkeeper, the latter shines his lamp on him once more. In an anti-classical comparison of this gesture of the innkeeper with that of Psyche, who  “It now occurred to him that words have a different effect in the mouth than in the ears, and he became a little more accustomed to listen into his own before he uttered them.” (p.852) 205  “He himself, who was wont to tell his story in great detail-a little too much detail rather than too little (and everything supports the supposition that our anonymous man must have heard it from him more than once)-he himself used to say at this point that he could not remember that night otherwise than if he had spent it dreaming in bed.” (p.816) 206  “[T]he great work of his mind was to visualize the history of those sad last years: all the entanglements, the adversities, the many moments when he had been close to losing hope, too, and to giving up everything; and then to set against them the imaginings of a future so altogether different: the arrival of Lucia, the marriage, the establishment of the household, the mutual recounting of their experiences, and all the rest of life.” (p.816) 204


3  Manzoni: Law andNovel

recognizes her husband Cupid in the glow of the lamp, the narrator thus turns Renzo into a profane Cupid, who is recognized by the innkeeper, to whom he does not want to reveal his name, as a ‘god’ instead of a ‘goddamned ass’ (‘Pezzo d’asino!’ PS, XIV, 259).207 Umberto Eco has drawn attention to Manzoni’s pessimistic view regarding the power of the word. He distinguishes a natural or popular sign language, consisting of visual signs, gestures, rituals, liturgies, from an artificial language based on the human word, the parola, which in doubt always lies and deceives more than the former.208 Like almost all pairs of opposites in Manzoni’s work, however, this one can hardly be sustained,209 and so Eco concedes, using Manzoni’s analysis of the plague as an example of mass delusion (“pubblica follia”), how even the ‘natural’ and supposedly truer system of signs can tip over into the contagion logic of human error. If Renzo is the last to learn a natural semiosis, or rather: a semiosis of nature in the Bildungsroman of the Promessi sposi, then one must not disregard the fact that in doing so, he not only learns half the truth, but also becomes a halved sign himself, which only becomes legible in relation to its other half. A final example can be used to show how Renzo’s valorization as a half, as a ‘couple’ protagonist goes hand in hand with his profanation, how his arbitrary will is sacrificed to an impure-profane-literary self-expression. This is the presentation of the Bread of Forgiveness by Padre Cristoforo in the XVI chapter. It marks the fictional-poetic climax of the novel, in which the padre, after resolving Lucia’s false vow, commits the couple to each other with admonitory words, even before the actual marriage by Don Abbondio is, as it were, post-delivered in the final chapter. The bread of forgiveness (“il pane del perdono”), which Cristoforo had asked for from the family of the man he had murdered and which he has carried around ever since as an admonition to himself, is still given to Fermo, not Lucia, in the early version of the novel. It is here, in Fermo e Lucia, still a matter of Fermo, not of the couple: Cristoforo presents it to him after Fermo has sworn forgiveness to Don Rodrigo. Salvatore S.Nigro has drawn attention not only to how the bread changes recipients in the promessi sposi, but also to how, first simply extracted by Cristoforo from a ‘basket’ (‘una sporta’), it is by contrast nested in a kind of tobacco box (‘una scatola’) in the promessi sposi, so that reliquary bread and pipe tobacco, addiction and spiritual nourishment, form an alliance.210 The tobacco tin is described by Nigro  For Paolo Valesio, this single appearance of the ‘demone Eros’ is proof that Manzoni categorically excludes love from his novel: “Con questo suo intervento infatti sulla calda e vasta immagine apuleiana dell’amore, il Manzoni strategicamente esprime la sua profonda opposizione a ogni storia d’amore […].” (Valesio, “Lucia, ovvero la ‘reticentia’”, footnote 7, p.172).– I would argue, on the other hand, that Renzo is first justified as a profane Cupid (‘Christian’ or even merely ‘Enlightenment’) for the community of love. 208  Umberto Eco, “Semiosi naturale e parola nei Promessi sposi”, in: Manetti (ed.), Leggere I promessi sposi, pp.1–16. 209  Cf. Pierantonio Frare, La scrittura dell’inquietudine. Saggio su Alessandro Manzoni, Florence: Olschki 2006, who describes Manzoni’s writing between the fundamental antitheses of ‘sentire’– ‘meditare’, ‘passione’– ‘ragione’, ‘giudizio’– ‘complicità’, ‘essere’– ‘dover essere’, ‘autore’– ‘lettore’. 210  Nigro, La tabacchiera di don Lisander, pp.3–11. 207

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as a topos for literary memory: there are two famous portraits of Manzoni in which he is depicted once with such a tin in his hand, the other time with a book (and ‘quel ramo del lago di Como’ in the background). Significantly, Fermo’s fatal intoxication with wine and words at the ‘Osteria della luna piena’ is compared to the addiction of a smoking writer in Fermo e Lucia. Fermo gets drunk there “a quel modo che uno scrittore, nelle stesse angustie, ricorre alla scatola, piglia una presa in furia, la porta al naso, chiude la scatola, la riapre, e ricomincia lo stesso gioco.” (FL III, VII, 467; Herv. D. S.)211 This comparison no longer exists in the final version of the novel. But Padre Cristoforo there, in the hospital scene, “takes from his basket a little box of common wood, but turned and polished with a certain Capuchin perfection” (p.809),212 which he presents to Lucia. The bread and its seductive little box thus become a legacy to the couple, like a pair split into a sacred thing and a profane word, the signifier and the signified. And at the same time, the scene thus becomes a figurative quotation from Sterne’s Sentimental Journey (1768), where the first-­ person narrator Yorick exchanges the tobacco box and its contents with a Franciscan friar to whom he has just refused an alms, as a sign of friendly reconciliation. If Lucia ends up replacing Renzo as the addressee of Padre Cristoforo’s gift, Renzo remains the primary addressee of its packaging: the addressee of a little box that refers to a natural, artfully refined, yet potentially addictive pleasure– not least of reading.

3.3 Lucia intheProcess ofSacralization Marianna de Leyva as Geltrude/Gertrude Gertrude’s story, told in chapters IX and X of the novel, is the counterpart of the Colonna Infame. Just as the condemned Piazza and Mora stand as historical shadows behind the male protagonist Renzo, Lucia has an uncanny, historical counter-­ image in the nun of Monza, condemned to life-long penance. Gertrude’s story is also based not only on a historical case, but primarily on a legal one. And just as the trial story of the plague smearers leaves the novelist at a loss as to whether or not it belongs in the novel, Gertrude’s story also triggers fundamental poetological doubts. The second volume (of four volumes) in Fermo e Lucia, designated as a digression, is shortened to two of thirty-three chapters in the final version of the novel. What will be omitted from the Promessi sposi is not least the first-person narrator’s poetological soliloquy on the meaning and utility of romance novels, to which we shall return in a moment.

 “Like a writer in equal distress, reaches for the tobacco tin, frantically takes a pinch, snorts, closes the tin, opens it anew, and begins the same game again.” 212  “[L]evò dalla sporta una scatola d’un legno ordinario, ma tornita e lustrata con una certa finitezza cappuccinesca.” (PS, XXXVI, 638) 211


3  Manzoni: Law andNovel

Marianna de Leyva (1575–1650), daughter of a noble Catalan family, is sent to a convent in 1589 as Suor Virginia Maria, where she enters into a criminal relationship with the Conte Giovanni Paolo Osio. She gives birth to two of his children, one of which dies. The lover eliminates several accomplices and confidants, with the nun assisting him as an accomplice. In 1608, Suor Virginia is condemned by the ecclesiastical court– presided over by Cardinal Federigo Borromeo– to do penance walled up in a convent cell. Pardoned by Borromeo in 1622, the nun voluntarily extended this penance until the end of her life. She remained in personal contact with Cardinal Federigo, who even planned a biography of her remarkable penitential life, and she died in 1650 at the ripe old age of 75. In contrast to the case of the Colonna Infame, however, Manzoni does not rely on the trial records for the figure of Gertrude, although they do exist and were first published in part in 1855 and in their entirety for the first time in 1985.213 Manzoni’s main source is Giuseppe Ripamonti’s Historia Patriae, as the novelist mentions at the very beginning of Chapter IX.214 It is probably only after the publication of the novel that Manzoni learns of the files. Between 1835 and 1840, with the archbishop’s permission, he obtains access to the detailed interrogation protocols, but refrains from using them for the revision of the novel. This is the same period in which he revisits Piazza and Mora’s trial records and Verri’s Osservazioni sulla tortura for the Colonna Infame that is to conclude the final version of the novel. And one can wonder why Manzoni apparently handled the criterion of historical correctness quite differently in the case of Marianna de Leyva than in the case of the plague smearers. Indeed, in addition to the parallels between the legal cases, their divergences are also striking. First, Marianna de Leyva becomes a fictional character: Geltrude in Fermo e Lucia and Gertrude in Promessi sposi215 is part of the novel’s plot, unlike Piazza and Mora. In the universe of characters so clearly divided on the surface between good and bad, she becomes an evil figure whose role is to betray the protagonist and deliver her to the kidnapper. Lucia and Gertrude meet, while Renzo is spared contact with his  Cf. the modern edition of the trial records with various, extensive and informative contributions on the legal, historical, editional and literary-historical context of the case: Umberto Colombo (ed.), Vita e processo di suor Virginia Maria de Leyva monaca di Monza.), Vita e processo di suor Virginia Maria de Leyva monaca di Monza, Milan: Garzanti 1985. An overview of the history of Marianna de Leyva is also provided by: Volker Hunecke, “Ein Fall aufrichtiger Reue”, in: Barbara Duden, Karen Hagemann u.a. (eds.), Geschichte in Geschichten. Ein historisches Lesebuch, Frankfurt a.M.: Campus 2003, pp.99–106. 214  Giuseppe Ripamonti, Historiae Patriae (Mediolanensis), 5th Decadis V Libri VI, Milan: Malatesta o.J., pp.358–377. 215  Why does Geltrude become Gertrude? Geltrude sounds softer than Gertrude. Valesio, “Lucia, ovvero la ‘reticentia’”, p.153, sees in the name change “quasi un’icona della austerità del taglio effettuato su tutta la storia di colei”.– Manzoni may have taken the procedure of substitution (l instead of r) in Fermo e Lucia from the English Gothic novel, where Italian names are clichéd: ‘banditto’ instead of ‘bandito’ or ‘Ellena’ instead of ‘Elena’ (cf. Stefania Acciaioli, ‘The ‘Shadow Side’ of Promessi sposi. Manzoni’s Reception of the Gothic Novel as Exemplified by Fermo e Lucia,” in Komparatistik. Jahrbuch der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Allgemeine und Vergleichende Literaturwissenschaft 2014/2015, ed. Christian Moser and Linda Simonis, Bielefeld: Aisthesis 2015, pp.227–246; here: p.236). 213

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cruelly condemned counterparts, Piazza and Mora. Gertrude is instrumentalized for the fiction of the novel, while the complicit victims of the judicial scandal are marginalized in favor of a fictional judge-figure and a metafictional judge-function. Second, the problem of the crime presents itself in several ways. The plague smearers are charged with a crime that did not exist: ‘un delitto che non c’era’. Gertrude’s crime in Promessi sposi, on the other hand, is ambiguated and (in the final version of the novel) framed in the famous ellipsis “La sventurata rispose.” Gertrude, who has promised an exclusive covenant with God by taking a vow of chastity, betrays this covenant by entering into a forbidden love affair with the vile Egidio. ‘Perverse passions’ seem to be Gertrude’s problem– and thus the same thing Manzoni accuses the judges of in the Colonna Infame. Legally, the matter is different because it is a case that affects both ecclesiastical and secular jurisdiction, ‘un delitto misto’. If one reads the trial records, not only is the actual protagonist of the crime missing– Gian Paolo Osio is said to have escaped from prison and to have been murdered on the run by an alleged accomplice– it also seems unclear who exactly was involved in the intrigue and to what degree.216 In any case, Suor Virginia Maria was walled up not only for a ‘mala pratica’ but also for complicity in the murder of at least one nun, and this despite the fact that at the beginning of the trial she testifies to having been raped by Osio.217 Third, in the Colonna Infame, Manzoni seeks to prove the guilt of the judges by use of the trial literature. The text is a relentless commitment of the reading, writing, and acting individual to a judgment. The judges and their psychology displace the victims Piazza and Mora from the position of the main role of the narrative, which they have in Verri, for example. Gertrude’s guilt, on the other hand, remains a mystery that the novelist carefully guards and about which not only manzonisti have pondered. Why does Manzoni not make of her the vita of a marvelous penance that the historical Cardinal Federigo himself almost wrote? What function does Gertrude, sacrificed to violence, have for the fiction of the novel?218 What is Gertrude’s function? This is the big question, which I will not– as has often been the case– answer below to the effect that her story banishes erotic love from the novel. Gertrude is rather a necessary character to make the couple Renzo and Lucia appear as just lovers who do not love at the expense of others. It is only against her foil– the powerful noblewoman who has succumbed to her passion for love, to the point of murder, to power over the lives of others – that Lucia’s  Franco Galliano writes in the “Note giuridiche” on the trial records: “Il procedimento criminale in questione, sebbene si incentri nella “mala pratica” che ha legato inesorabilmente e tragicamente suor Verginia Maria e Gian Paolo Osio, non permette l’esatta puntualizzazione degli esecrabili delitti che da quella relazione traggono causa, né consente di localizzare tutti i personaggi che ruotano, attivamente e passivamente, nell’intricato gioco del processo.” (In: Colombo (ed.), Vita e processo, pp.751–767; here: p.751.) 217  Giancarlo Vigorelli in his “Presentazione” of the trial records refers to the dubious role of the priest Paolo Arrigono– “Ha negato più di Giuda”– and Manzoni should have identified him as the main culprit … (in: Colombo (ed.), Vita e processo, pp. VII-XIX; here: p. XIV). 218  “[È] l’unica vittima del romanzo,” writes Giovanni Nencioni (La lingua di Manzoni, p.290). See also Girardi, Struttura e personaggi dei Promessi Sposi, p.149: “[Q]uesto personaggio […] appare più sfruttato che realizzato.” 216


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‘innocent’ femininity succeeds in being ascribed agency. The novel, as will be seen, transfers her aristocratic as sexual violence to the simple peasant girl, who thus becomes a figuration of sacred violence– and the perfect counterpart to Renzo, the profane Cupid.

Included andExcluded Passion The enforced monastic vow was a common topos in the Enlightenment. Giovanni Getto cites Diderot’s La Religieuse (published in 1780–1782 as a feuilleton) as well as numerous other texts that could have influenced Manzoni.219 Unlike an enlightened and anti-clerical critique, however, Manzoni is not concerned with stigmatizing female convent life as unnatural. His critique of law and violence is more profound, just as it is more profound in comparison with Verri’s Enlightenment critique of torture. Also running through Gertrude’s case is the troubling finding that violence is not always and per se bad. The question is rather one of the right of violence. Thus the narrator of Fermo e Lucia still explicitly emphasizes the religious exemplariness of those nuns locked away in the seventeenth century, who would have found “rassegnazione” and “pace” in the end: “una pace quale si trova di rado negli stati eletti più liberamente” (FL, II, IV, 204).220 Diderot’s sister Suzanne wants one thing above all: to be freed from an involuntarily chosen status in the name of the Marquis de Croismare, to whom she addresses her desperate letters. She has already done much herself, against family and monastic compulsion: In the first convent to which she is sent, she thwarts her profession with a resounding no. In the second convent, with the help of the lawyer Manouri, she instigates a lawsuit to bring about the revocation of her vows, which were, after all, forced upon her by maternal violence.221 In the third, at the convent of Saint-Eutrope, she fights a nun who seduces her and a clergyman who wants to rape her. None of this is enough, however, and ultimately her liberation depends on the good will of the one she is trying to convince with her ‘memoirs’. This is precisely what is said in the very first sentence of the text: “La réponse de M. le marquis de Croismare, s’il m’en fait une, me fournira les premières lignes de ce récit.”222 That Manzoni has poetologically and ideologically other things in mind with Gertrude is obvious. Diderot relies entirely on a poetics of pity and empathy: the reader is to be convinced by being presented with an innocent, female victim in the first person. In his poetological writings, Manzoni never tires of criticizing such a theatrical form of immediate  In particular, Mélanie (1770) by Jean-François de La Harpe and Marivaux’s La vie de Marianne (pp. 1731–1745). Cf. Getto, Manzoni europeo, pp. 57–140 (“I capitoli ‘francesi’ dei Promessi sposi”). 220  “[E]very peace that is seldom found in the more freely chosen estates”. 221  As an illegitimate child, Suzanne atones for her mother’s transgression. It is the latter who exerts the real pressure on Suzanne. In the story of Gertrude, who is the legitimate second-born, the mother remains in the background and Manzoni’s analysis focuses entirely on paternal violence. 222  Denis Diderot, La Religieuse, Paris: GF-Flammarion 1968, p.39. 219

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affect transmission, which relies on the reader’s or viewer’s sympathy with the character: Opinione ricantata e falsa: che il poeta per interessare deve movere le passioni. Se fosse così sarebbe da proscriversi la poesia.– Ma non è così. La rappresentazione delle passioni che non eccitano simpatia, ma riflessione sentita è più poetica d’ogni altra.223

No wonder, then, that in Promessi sposi, the narrator (with the help of the editor’s fiction) repeatedly interrupts the reader’s potential identification with the characters. Of Gertrude’s desire and will, of her thoughts and desires, one consequently learns only in a form mediated by the narrator. But what is Gertrude’s passion in the first place, and what ‘emotional reflection’ is it capable of triggering in the reader? It is, after all, remarkable that Gertrude appears not simply as an innocent victim of the novel (like the victims of Colonna Infame), but as a femme fatale who ‘anticipates the canon of the 19th-century decadent novel’.224 She has become famous for her decadently seductive looks, her strange, unpredictable, and contradictory behavior. It is not her struggle against paternal violence that is legendary, but her consent to that violence– “La sventurata rispose”– in which eroticism and crime enter into a unique union. Gertrude’s moral defeat is her aesthetic triumph, a triumph against which Lucia, her double, degenerates into a pale shadow. Thus her behaviour also resembles less Diderot’s innocent Suzanne than that of the unpredictable Superior of Arpajon, who in the end perishes insane, driven hysterical by her passions.225 What needs to be explained is why Gertrude’s criminal passions do not violate the novel’s conception as a whole. Why the story as a “foreign body in the novel”226 and its gathering in the final version as ‘censorship’ are inadequately, if not incorrectly, described.227 In the early version of the novel, the moment when Lucia and Agnese enter the Monastery of Monza (at the transition from the first to the second volume) forms the occasion for a narratorial digression that highlights the poetological centrality of Gertrude’s character (FL, II, I, 143–149). In a staged dialogue between the narrator and a ‘personaggio ideale’, the representation of false passions 223  Alessandro Manzoni, “Della Moralità delle Opere Tragiche”, in id., Tutte le opere, vol. V/III: Scritti letterari, ed. Riccardi/Travi, pp.53–70, here: p.57. (“A constantly repeated and false notion: that the poet, in order to interest, must generate passions. If it were so, poetry should be banned. But it isn’t. The representation of those passions which provoke not sympathy but emotional reflection is more poetic than anything else.”) 224  Acciaioli, “The ‘Shadow Side’ of the Promessi sposi,” p.236. 225  Cf. Getto, Manzoni europeo, pp.86–88, who in the same place– as the first, if I see it right– points out parallels with Ann Radcliffe’s Schedoni from The Italian, or the Confessional of the Black Pentitents (1797) in a footnote that blows up the main text. The ‘French chapters’ of the novel thus become more un-French than perhaps intended … 226  Cf. Bernsen, Stories and History, p.123. 227  See Vf., “Misguided Passions? Zur Liebe der ‘monaca di Monza’ in Manzoni’s I Promessi Sposi”, in: Isabel Maurer Queipo, Tanja Schwan (eds.), Pathos– zwischen Passion und Phobie. Schmerz und Schrecken in den romanischen Literaturen seit dem 19. Jahrhundert, Frankfurt a.M.: Peter Lang 2015, pp.111–126.– I try there to show, with Jean-Luc Marion’s concept of the ‘phénomène érotique’, how Gertrude’s capacity for love compensates for Lucia’s passivity.


3  Manzoni: Law andNovel

is explicitly linked to the conception of the romance novel. How the narrator comes to do this, is the fictional character’s objection, telling a story of two lovers (“due innamorati”) without going into the slightest detail about the beginnings, development, and communication of their affect. This fictional question alone shows how much Manzoni was troubled by the paradox of his novel project. The reasons given are moral ones: There is already enough love in the world and other affects (“altri sentimenti”) are much more important after all: for example, “la commiserazione, l’affetto al prossimo, la dolcezza, l’indulgenza, il sacrificio di se stesso” (FL, II, I, 145).228 Moreover, the novel is meant to serve everyone, including spinsters, nuns, and priests, not just lovers. What the narrator does not add is that, given such a commitment of the novel to religious moral utility, these readers may then be all the more surprised when they are introduced to Gertrude’s criminal history immediately afterwards.229 The problem is not argued out, the staged antagonist is silenced when he asks once again whether the narrator really wants to voluntarily renounce the ‘most powerful means of entertaining’.230 He didn’t understand any of this, after all, and should think again about the problem. If one does so, one comes to the conclusion that the narrator does not want to renounce the potent means of depicting love, but wants to avoid the reader’s understanding of love as a private and intimate relationship. Already the first answer to the objection of the fictional dialogue partner is: “Perchè io sono del parere di coloro i quali dicono che non si deve scrivere d’amore in modo da far consentire l’animo di chi legge a questa passione.” (FL, II, I, 144)231 The point is to object to the notion of the privacy of love, and thus not to exclude it, but to include it as a public matter. The narrator does not condemn love literature (Petrarch, Racine are the chief witnesses). It is the judges who condemn, he notes, while he does not judge but merely excluded ‘those beautiful passages of this story’– ‘quei bei passi da questa storia’ (FL, II, I, 146). The beautiful episodes of private love are not of interest, but very much the effect they can have. In Gertrude’s case, love goes as far as the fatal act. But how are Renzo and Lucia to understand this? Renzo’s story has shown that, in the end, he has rather learned that, happily, love can sometimes have no effect. If the couple’s fiction is to succeed, the insight into the violence of love hangs on Lucia alone, and so she– like the reader– must meet Gertrude.

 “Compassion, charity, gentleness, forbearance, self-sacrifice”.  Cf. already the comment of Getto: “Ora, non può certo non apparire singolare (e lo notava il critico citato, T. De Wyzewa) il fatto che nel Fermo Manzoni, mentre si arresta di fronte a tali scrupoli morali sulla rappresentazione dell’amore dei due promessi, non esiti poi ad entrare nella distesa narrazione die sacrileghi e delittuosi rapporti di Gertrude con Egidio.” (Manzoni europeo, p.62.) 230  “Ma voi volete privarvi volontariamente dei mezzi più potenti di dilettare, di quei mezzi che anche in mano della mediocrità possono talvolta produrre un grande effetto?” (FL, II, I, 148) (“But you will voluntarily renounce the most powerful means to entertain, those means which even in the hand of mediocrity can sometimes produce a great effect?”) 231  “Because I share the view of those who say that one must not write about love in such a way that the mind of the reader feels that passion.” 228 229

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It has often been said that Fermo e Lucia is more novelistic than I promessi sposi: the narrative is interrupted much less frequently, Renzo and Lucia communicate with each other even more, the word love occurs more often. While it is the love intrigue that structures the plot, in the final version its narrative perspectivization takes its place more and more.232 A shift from the story to the text of the story– and, paradoxically, a shift from the love passion to the passions: “[…] se […] è vero che Fermo e Lucia dà più spazio alla passione amorosa e ai sentimenti a essa affini, è anche vero che nei Promessi sposi, se si accettua l’amore, tutte le altre passioni sono maggiormente presente: la paura, la violenza, l’ansia del potere, il senso di colpa, la dissimulazione, il terrore della morte, l’avidità, il risentimento […].”233 What Daniela Brogi describes as a reality effect through which characters are brought into conflict with their external world can nowhere be illustrated as well as in the interface of Gertrude, whose passion for love leads to false, criminal acts because she herself becomes the victim of a psychic rape (by her father).

Gertrude, la Signora While Renzo curiously does not go to the convent recommended to him and discovers the Milanese world in revolt, the obedient Lucia is confronted in the convent of Monza with Gertrude, a primarily strange signora and ‘woman in revolt’. Where the latter wonders about the bread lying around Milan, Lucia is unsettled and intimidated by the signora’s dubious curiosity. Gertrude is introduced in her first encounter with Lucia and the narrator goes out of his way to emphasise the mysterious nature of her character. This begins with the coachman who is commissioned to take Agnese and Lucia to the convent and, having heard of Lucia’s fate, assures them both in anticipatory irony: “La signora […] è una monaca; ma non è una monaca come l’altre. Non è che sia la badessa, nè la priora; che anzi, a quel che dicono, è una delle più giovani: ma è della costola d’Adamo; e i suoi del tempo antico erano gente grande, venuta di Spagna, dove son quelli che comandano; […] e perciò, se quel buon religioso lì, ottiene di mettervi nelle sue mani, e che lei v’accetti, vi posso dire che sarete sicure come sull’altare.” (PS, IX, 148)234

 Daniela Brogi speaks of the transition of a “poetica settecentesca dell’intrigo” to a “poetica dell’intreccio” (Il genere proscritto, p.153). 233  Ibid., p.122. 234  “The Signora […] is a nun, but not like the others. Not that she is the abbess, nor the prioress; on the contrary, she is even said to be one of the youngest. But she comes from the oldest nobility, her ancestors have always been great lords, people from Spain, where everyone comes from who has something to say. […] and therefore I can tell you that if that good religious there manages to put you into her hands, and if she takes you in, you will be safe as in Abraham’s bosom.’” (p.189f.– Unfortunately, both ambiguities are lost in translation: “è della costola d’Adamo” (‘she is of the oldest race’ and ‘from Adam’s rib’ in the sense of pure carnality); “sarete sicure come all’altare” (‘safe, saved, holy’ vs. ‘lost, sacrificed’ on the altar). 232


3  Manzoni: Law andNovel

The Signora is above all a powerful figure; whoever comes into her hands is as safe as on the altar: he can be saved or sacrificed. Gertrude, thought of by Padre Cristoforo as a helper figure, will become a traitor figure to Lucia.235 At the same time, the sentence anticipates that the one who supposedly has the power to sacrifice is herself a victim, and the false victim of her father, who forced her into the convent. The Guardian, who receives the two women outside the convent, also serves the function of allowing the novel to slide into a dark, mysterious interior – genre-speak for gothic novel. At the threshold (“sulla soglia”) of the monastery gate (“la porta”), he receives Padre Cristoforo’s letter of recommendation and leads the women across a monastery forecourt (“la piazza”) and another gate to the first monastery courtyard (“nel primo cortile del monastero”), via the conductor’s room (“nelle camere della fattoressa”) and a second courtyard (“un secondo cortile”) to the convent’s consulting room (“parlatorio”, cf. PS, IX, 147 ff.). It is also the Padre Guardian who makes the first bawdy remark of the novel, thus driving the sexual connotations: Agnese and Lucia are told to walk a few steps behind him so that people do not see him in the street with a beautiful girl (where, however, there can hardly be any question of street anymore).236 Even before Lucia, at first surprised to see no one in the consulting room, discovers the signora in a corner behind a barred window,237 even before she becomes visible, it is clear to the reader that the intrigue must now develop for the worse. In an incomparable way, her ambivalence is summed up in her portrait, a construct made up of topical, inter-textual, and intra-textual allusions that make any evaluative unambiguity impossible. Though only around twenty-five, her beauty is a decayed beauty (“una bellezza sbattuta, sfiorita e, direi quasi, scomposta,” PS, IX, 149; “a[ ] tired[ ], faded[ ], almost one would like to say decayed[ ] beauty,” p.191). The nun’s habit brings out her femininity more than it veils it. A black curl peeks out from the bandeau on her forehead, the white of the bandeau contrasting with the ‘other’ white of her forehead. The black robe emphasises her waist, cinched with an ‘almost fashionable’ care (‘la vita era attillata con una certa cura secolaresca’, PS, IX, 150). Just as contradictorily characterised as her lips and cheeks– on the one hand delicate, beautiful, on the other pale, sunken– are her facial expressions and gestures: the black eyes (‘neri neri’, PS, IX, 150) fix the other with a penetrating

 Guido Baldi refers to the chiastic relationship in which she thus stands to the Innominato, who converts from antagonist to helper figure of Lucia (“La Signora di Monza: Potere feudale ed. Eros,” Giornale storico della letteratura italiana 180 (2003), pp.235–250; here: p.135). 236  Getto draws attention to the contrast between the Padre Guardian and Padre Cristoforo (Manzoni europeo, p.78), and also to the fundamental change in the narrative register: “Un paesaggio psicologico così vasto e tenebroso non era stato finora tentato da Manzoni. La biografia di Lodovico è cosa del tutto diversa, meno insistente nell’analisi di una vicenda interiore.” (Ibid.)– Nonetheless, Padre Cristoforo is indeed attracted to Lucia in a special way, making the couple’s rescue his special mission. 237  The window ‘in a corner’, “verso un angolo” (PS, IX, 149) is illogical, but it creates a parallel with Lucia’s confinement in the Innominato’s castle. She too retreats to the farthest corner of the chamber: “[L’innominato; D. S.] vide Lucia rannicchiata in terra, nel canto il più lontano dall’uscio.” (PS, XXI, 356) (“[The unnamed; D.S.]” saw […] Lucia crouching on the floor, in the corner of the room furthest from the door.” p.451) 235

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gaze (‘con un’investigazione superba’, PS, IX, 150) or they lower quickly, ‘as if seeking a hiding place’ (‘come per cercare un nascondiglio’, PS, IX, 150). Their gaze, according to the narrator, seems on the one hand to elicit pity (‘affetto, corrispondenza, pietà’, PS, IX, 150), and on the other to be hateful and threatening (‘un odio inveterato e compresso, un non so che di minaccioso e di feroce’, PS, IX, 150). Apart from the similarities and contrasts with the figure of Lucia, to which we will return in a moment, the proximity to Diderot’s Religieuse and Anne Radcliffe’s Italian is particularly striking. Also of the Superior of Arpajon it is said: “il y a toujours quelque chose qui cloche dans son vêtement”. Moreover, ‘Sa figure décomposée marque tout le décousu de son esprit et toute l’inégalité de son caractère’.238 Manzoni adopts the attribute of the disfigured, distorted with the ‘bellezza scomposta’, but without identifying it as an expression of Gertrude’s character.239 On the contrary, the quotation is used to evoke the question of character and interiority in the first place. Everything in her portrait aims at mystifying this interior. Her eyes and movements express a mystery (“pieni d’espressione e di mistero”, PS, IX, 150), there is something strange about her (“quel non so che di strano”, PS, IX, 150). Why does she break the rule of the order and let a curl peek out from her veil? And why does she question Lucia about her persecution by Don Rodrigo? The narrator takes this first conversation, in which her speeches become increasingly ‘strange’ (‘strani’, PS, IX, 154), ‘a render ragione dell’insolito e del misterioso che abbiam veduto in lei, e a far comprendere i motivi della sua condotta, in quello che avvenne dopo’ (PS, IX, 154; ‘in order to explain the unusual and mysterious thing we have noticed in her and to understand the reasons for her subsequent behaviour’, p.197). Even more revealing, however, is the proximity to Radcliffe’s Italian; here there are parallels that go beyond individual passages. Indeed, Gertrude also resembles the friar Schedoni, the rogue who in Italian is hired by the Marchesa di Vivaldi to seduce the beautiful, orphaned Ellena. Her son Vincentio di Vivaldi has fallen in love and a mesalliance must be prevented. Schedoni exudes a ‘gloomy and cruel melancholy’; in him, too, the black of the monk’s habit contrasts with a ‘sallow pallor of face’. His figure is ‘striking’, and just as Gertrude is described as ‘una monaca singolare’ (PS, IX, 150; ‘a quite singular nun’, p.192), there is in his physiognomy ‘something […] extremely singular, and that cannot easily be defined’.240 Gertrude  Diderot, La Religieuse, p.139f.  Diderot’s Superiorin is characterized above all by a deregulated sexuality: “il n’y a rien de réglé,” it says in the same passage. 240  Cf. Ann Radcliffe, The Italian, or the Confessional of the Black Pentitents (1797), p.34f. The parallel is also pointed out by: Baldi, “La Signora di Monza,” p.237; Acciaioli, “The ‘Shadow Side’ of the Promessi sposi,” p.237. A basic indication of the relevance of Radcliffe’s Confessional, since in connection with the marriage motif, can already be found in Joachim Schulze, “Alessandro Manzoni’s Pursued Innocence or the Difficulty of Controlling Intertextuality,” in id., Ilse NoltingHauff (ed.), The Foreign Word. Studien zur Interdependenz von Texten, Amsterdam: Grüner 1988, pp. 306–322. – Küpper, “Ironisierung der Fiktion und De-Auratisierung der Historie”, p. 130, unjustifiably rejects this reference. Yet the schema of the Hellenistic romance novel (due to the recognition motif) could possibly be related to Radcliffe’s novel with more plausibility than to the Promessi sposi, whose conversion schema is incompatible with the ancient novel. 238 239


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thus becomes an echo of two anti-clerically conceived novel anti-heroes – not a trace of the historical Suor Virginia Maria! With Radcliffe’s Schedoni, Manzoni also picks up on an anti-Italian cliché, since the Gothic novels are preferably set not only in a Medievale but also in a Mediterranean milieu– i.e. in a retrograde, Roman Catholic Italy. In the introduction of the villain Egidio as a revenge-seeker in Fermo e Lucia, this cliché almost brings the narrator to the next digression: Sarebbe un soggetto degno di curiosità, la ricerca delle cagioni per cui quelle idee e quei costumi, dopo aver regnato per troppe età in quasi tutte le nazioni d’Europa, sieno poi stati da migliaia di scrittori, e da milioni di parlanti attribuite poi esclusivamente agli Italiani. Ma noi invece di avviarci in una nuova digressione, ne abbiamo ora una, e anzi lunghetta che no, da farci perdonare: torniamo quindi alla storia. (FL, II, V, 210 f.)241

One can assume that Manzoni has in mind here not least such gothic novels as Radcliffe’s Italian, The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) or Matthew Gregory Lewis’s The Monk (1796), and at the same time in the ‘Digression’ to Gertrude turns the cliché into a weapon to override the confessional counter-position.242 Radcliffe’s Italian is about a supposedly immoral marriage, which is to be avoided primarily with Schedoni’s help. The solution is brought about via the clarification of true (and quite tangled!) identities: Schedoni discovers a locket around Ellena’s neck just as he is about to rape her, showing himself and revealing him (later) to be the abductee’s uncle. Ellena turns out to be a noblewoman and is able to marry Vicentio at the end. Thus, behind the novel is the rational-sentimental critique of a patriarchal marriage practice that values marrying within one’s social class over love and affection. The criticism is made possible by the alienation of the patriarchal representative as an eerily creepy monk. Now Manzoni’s intention is not to write an Italian confession against professional marriage, but to sketch a fictional, universal, non-national community in which historical antagonisms (or that between secular state and dissociated, itinerant church) are to be overcome. The central obstacle in Manzoni’s marriage novel is not lack of class or lack of affection– both of which promessi sposi presuppose. The obstacle is external contestation, which doubles, transforms, and increases in the couple over the course of the novel– Don Rodrigo, Gertrude, the Innominato for Lucia; famine, war/revolt, and plague for Renzo – and thus requires simultaneously doubling, transforming, and increasing operations of resolution. Unlike Radcliffe’s novel, in Promessi sposi a solution is required from without (Renzo) and from within (Lucia). In Renzo’s story I wanted to show how ‘his solution’ is passive; the conversion of his love remains incomplete, he recognizes  “It would be a fascinating subject to examine the question why these notions and manners, which have prevailed only too long in almost all European nations, have then been attributed by thousands of writers, and by millions of people, exclusively to the Italians. But instead of going into a new digression-we are already in a digression, and quite a long one, which should be forgiven us-let us return to history.” 242  Cf. Michael C.Frank, “Ästhetik des Schreckens. Der Schauerroman von Horace Walpole bis Ann Radcliffe”, in: Martin von Koppenfels, Cornelia Zumbusch (eds.), Handbuch Literatur & Emotionen, Berlin: De Gruyter 2016, pp.261–280, who speaks of an “almost obsessive engagement with an imaginary of Catholicism’” (p.478). 241

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himself more in nature and a natural sexuality than in the penitential scene with Don Rodrigo, his salvation is above all the plague which carries off the rival and allows him to survive. In contrast, Lucia has the task of actively overcoming the challenge from outside, through her own person, through a performed sexuality. Lucia encounters two powerful persons, the noble nun Gertrude and the Innominato– and the Innominato is also a second Schedoni. From the one Lucia learns the violence of her gender, from the other the name, the right of that violence. But I’m getting ahead of myself. What is important at this point is that Gertrude is introduced as an ambivalent figure, as is evident in the fact that while her portrait has elements of a schedoni, the scene of her arrival at the convent simultaneously refers to Ellena’s abduction to the convent of Santa Maria della Pietà, where, significantly, she meets the nun who will later turn out to be her biological mother, Olivia Rosalba, and who helps her out of the convent. In Gertrude, Lucia thus also intertextually encounters a figure who is unrecognizable by her very nature and who serves a function for her that is both negative and positive. Indeed, the narrator initially presents Gertrude as a literally nameless figure.243 Introduced as ‘signora’, ‘mistress’, the name ‘Gertrude’ only comes up in connection with the telling of her story. The father gives Gertrude her name: ‘la chiamò Gertrude’ because he found in it ‘a name that immediately evoked the idea of the convent’ (‘un nome che risvegliasse immediatamente l’idea del chiostro’, PS, IX, 155). The narrator, who sets out to explain to readers the strangeness of her first appearance and her (mistaken) actions, prefers other names for Gertrude, especially before she makes her fatal vow: la signorina, la nostra infelice, la povera innocentina, Gertrudina, la nostra poveretta, la sposina, la sventurata.244 As ‘Geltrude’/‘Gertrude’ she bears a false name and, like the Innominato, remains an unnamed (or name-less) power. Upon entering the convent, she does not, as is customary and as in the case of Padre Cristoforo, assume a new name. Creature of her father, her name is numen of an assumed divinity.245 In the second half of Chapter IX, the narrator provides the explanation for her behavior. Without any analysis of trial records, using only Ripamonti as a historical source, he imagines and analyzes Gertrude’s forced entry into the convent as the inevitable result of a psychological rape by her father. What is more, he thus hides the conclusion of the final conversion and the extraordinary penitential achievements with which Ripamonti had concluded his story of the (there nameless) nun.

 Cf. Paola Mastrocola, ‘Gertrude e La Signora: due storie, nessuna fine’, in Giorgio Barberi Squarotti (ed.), Prospettive sui Promessi sposi, Turin: Tirrenia Stampatori 1991, pp. 163–202; here: p.163. 244  Mastrocola, “Gertrude e La Signora”, p.164, takes this as a sign of the narrator’s sympathy for the character. In her dreamy disposition, she represents not so much a historical figure as its symbol, the dream, the narrator’s desire to escape history. By capping the outcome of her story– her conversion– he makes out a ‘blocked figure’. Mastrocola interprets Gertrude’s stuckness in her guilt aesthetically as unfinishability: ‘È personaggio in-finito. L’unico dei grandi a non avere una fine.” (p.176) 245  Cf. Umberto Colombo, “La Gertrude manzoniana,” in id. (ed.), Vita e processo, pp.787f. 243


3  Manzoni: Law andNovel

While the ‘digressione’ in Fermo e Lucia is still justified by the pious ending,246 the narrator removes the nun’s conversion from the fictional novel plot and mentions it only at the end of the novel, in the form of a metafictional narrator’s comment and ‘postscript’ that should not be withheld from the reader: Seppe dalla vedova che la sciagurata, caduta in sospetto d’atrocissimi fatti, era stata, per ordine del cardinale, trasportata in un monastero di Milano; che lì, dopo molto infuriare e dibattersi, s’era ravveduta, s’era accusata; e che la sua vita attuale era supplizio volontario tale, che nessuno, a meno di non togliergliela, ne avrebbe potuto trovare un più severo. (PS, XXXVII, 652 f.)247

For the interested reader, the following reference is made to Ripamonti’s source. The latter gives a clearer account of the matter and explains that Cardinal Federigo Borromeo, to whom Suor Virginia had been handed over as a church judge, was in the end convinced of the nun’s genuine conversion: E la cosa giunse a tal punto che, dopo grandi e ripetute prove, nell’animo del cardinale sorge la certezza che Dio è veramente presente e che il cielo plaude alla conversione di quell’anima; manifestamente commosso, anch’egli plaudiva e voleva rendere onore alla conversione e a questo fatto esemplare.248

The omission of Gertrude’s conversion in Promessi sposi is programmatic, as can be seen not least from the fact that Manzoni himself avoids the term conversion in the postscript at the end of the novel. Lucia must here, as all the cuts of the episode focus on, encounter a character who is at odds with herself. In this respect she personifies the revolt into which Renzo is ‘literally’ thrown in Milan. The early version of the novel, on the other hand, keeps Geltrude present on the one hand as an ultimately positive role model and, on the other, describes in detail (in chapters VII and IX of the fourth volume) the acquaintance with Egidio and the crime.249 What is  “Queste cose però, […] noi le avremmo taciute, avremmo anche soppresso tutto il racconto, se non avessimo potuto anche raccontare in progresso un tale mutamento d’animo nella Signora, che non solo tempera e raddolcisce l’impressione sinistra che deggiono fare i primi fatti della Signora, ma deve creare una impressione d’opposto genere, e consolante.” (FL, II, II, 160f.) (“Meanwhile, we would have concealed these things, we would have omitted the whole story, if we had not also been able to tell of a progressive change which not only moderates and softens the gloomy impression produced by the first deeds of the Signora, but which must even produce an opposite, even consoling impression.”) 247  “She learned from the widow that the wretch, suspected of atrocious deeds, had been removed by order of the cardinal to a convent at Milan; that there, after much rioting and flailing about, she had acknowledged her wrong and accused herself; and that her present life was a voluntary punishment of such a kind that no one could find a more severe one, unless to take her life at once.” (p.827) 248  “And it came to such a point that, after great and repeated trials, there arose in the cardinal’s soul the certainty that God is truly present and that heaven applauds the conversion of that soul; manifestly moved, he too applauded and wanted to honor the conversion and this exemplary fact.” Giuseppe Ripamonti, Historiae patriae, Milan 1641–1643, decadis V lib. VI, p.375; quoted in: Colombo (ed.), Vita e processo, p.45. 249  In Fermo e Lucia, it is an allied nun who kills the confidante; according to the trial records, Osio was the culprit. 246

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already left out here, however, and what is rarely referred to,250 is the narrative elaboration of the love relationship with Egidio, thus redeeming the poetological decision made in advance not to write a love novel: Il nostro manoscritto, segue qui con lunghi particolari il progresso dei falli di Geltrude; noi saltiamo tutti questi particolari, e diremo soltanto ciò che è necessario a fare intendere in che abisso ella fosse caduta, e a motivare gli orribili eccessi d’un altro genere, ai quali la strascinò la sua caduta. (FL, II, V, 215)251

Manzoni’s omission of love– “noi saltiamo tutti questi particolari”– concerns not only the transition from one novel to the other, but the origin of the novel. If not unrepresentable, erotic, physical love, together with its beauty and seductive power, is useless because it concerns only two and excludes the third. Criminal love, however, is all the more instructive because it reveals a power of action that goes beyond the couple, because it affects third parties by demanding sacrifice. At the same time, criminal love is more instructive than other crimes (especially that which Manzoni imputes to the judges of the plague trial) because in it that positive passion, that love that is necessary for the foundation of community, remains legible as a trace. Whereas Manzoni can only detect fear in the misjudgement of the judges of the Colonna Infame, love shimmers through in Gertrude, which is supposed to triumph in the happy ending of those who marry. This can explain the asymmetry of the novel’s two historical legal cases: With the Colonna Infame, a bad violence is excluded from the novel: the real crime (the murder of the innocent),252 the false passion (the fear of the judges), and, perhaps not least, a narrator who is potentially wrong, due to the passionate judging. Piazza and Mora are really victim-shadows of the acquitted protagonist. Gertrude’s episode, on the other hand, cannot be completely excluded from the novel because underneath her false violence lies the real one, love instead of fear. Her story, concentrated in two chapters, is situated on the border between fiction and history, pointing both to her outside (in the character’s unseclusion) and to her center (Lucia). The thesis of an exclusion of the erotic in favor of Christian caritas does not work because the communal, converted, ‘conjugal love’ that the novel has as its utopian-social goal is nothing other than a transposition of the figure of the passion of love.  In Manzoni, Fermo e Lucia, ed. Nigro/Paccagnini, the passage remains uncommented.  “Our manuscript here traces with dissolute detail the increase of Geltrude’s transgressions; we skip all these particulars, and report only what is necessary to make intelligible the abyss into which she had fallen, and to account for the terrible excesses of a different kind which accompanied her downfall.” 252  Not only love thus marks a neuralgic point of Manzoni’s poetics, but also the depiction of physical violence. This is often forgotten in the romance novel debate. A famous exception is Moravia, for whom Egidio is the only truly evil character in the novel: “Ecco, infatti, Egidio, un malvagio più malvagio di Don Rodrigo e dell’Innominato perché, al contrario di questi ultimi, motivato nella sua malvagità e per giunta con i moventi molto moderni del sadismo e della lussuria profanatoria.” (Alberto Moravia, “Alessandro Manzoni o l’ipotesi di un realismo cattolico (1964),” in id., Opere complete, 16 vols, Milan: Bompiani 1974–1976, vol. 15, pp.303–343; here: p.328.)– Egidio is the seducer that Don Rodrigo is not allowed to be; and yet: in Fermo e Lucia the narrator does not have him commit the murder, but a seduced nun. 250 251


3  Manzoni: Law andNovel

In Manzoni’s Osservazioni sulla morale cattolica, the community that does not exist in Promessi sposi and that is only held out in prospect in the exiled couple corresponds in some respects to the Church, “la Chiesa”. A hidden and ominous institution that hardly reveals itself in names (least of all in papal names, at best in names of French moralists) and in this respect would have to be described as a collective protagonist of the text to be constructed rather than as an existing object of an apologia. The core problem of the Apology is how this institution– corpus mysticum of the Passion of Christ– can be reconciled in moral-philosophical and moral-­theological terms with the reason and passionality of (enlightened) man. In this, as Pierantonio Frare has traced, the writer moves in an indissoluble tension between passione and ragione.253 ‘False passions’ are cited as the reason why so many people adhere to false doctrines (‘dottrine false’; OMC, VII, 110) and abuse the correct ones. Passions are blamed for almost all social ills: for hatred among nations, for the violence of colonial masters, for ills within the Church. At the same time, logically and rhetorically, the means of asserting the ‘correct’ concept of the Passion is lacking. Only in a single passage of the Osservazioni (still missing from the first version of 1819) does the term occur in a positive sense.254 Ironically, it refers to the Christian missionaries who, like lambs among wolves, are torn between ‘two passions’, that of saving others and that of suffering martyrdom themselves. But being torn between the passions is precisely what must be excluded. This precarious indistinguishability of true and false passions leads Manzoni in the Osservazioni to speak of a sophistry of the passions: L’uomo che vuol vivere a seconda di queste [le passioni; D.S.], e insieme non osa negare a sé stesso l’autorità della dottrina che le condanna, si sforza di conciliare in apparenza queste due disposizioni inconciliabili, per darla vinta a quella che vuol far prevalere in effetto. E questa infelicissima frode se la fa col mezzo della sofistica ordinaria delle passioni; cioè spezzando, per dir così, la dottrina, prendendone quel che tanto che gli conviene, e non curandosi del rimanente: che è quanto dire, riconoscendola e negandola nello stesso tempo. (OMC, VII, 110; Herv. D.S.)255

 Cf. Frare, La scrittura dell’inquietudine, pp.53–83 (“‘Un esimio, ma appassionato ingegno’”).– Frare shows how narrative control tips into a passionate narrator in the Colonna Infame. He reads the Gertrude episode as excluding the Passion (and in this respect successful narrative control), whereas I read it in such a way that in it the narrator’s judgment is suspended (or split into an ‘innocent’ before the monastic vow and a ‘guilty’ after it). 254  “[Q]uelle migliaia di missionari che portando la fede ai selvaggi e agli infedeli d’ogni sorte, ci andarono e ci vanno senza soldati, senz’armi, come agnelli tra i lupi [Ecce ego mitto vos sicut agnos inter lupos. Luc. X, 3], e col core diviso tra due sole passioni, quella di condurre molti alla salute, e quella del martirio.” (Manzoni, Osservazioni, VII, 76; quoted in: Frare, La scrittura dell’inquietudine, p.56.) 255  “The man who wishes to live up to them [the Passions; D.S.], and yet does not dare to deny before himself the authority of the doctrine which they condemn, compels himself to mediate a balance, according to appearances, between two irreconcilable opinions, in order to give free rein to that which in reality he wishes should prevail. And this unwholesome fraud is perpetrated by means of the sophisms common to the passions, by cutting up the doctrine, as it were, taking as much of it as suits one, and not caring about the rest-which is to say, as much as: acknowledging and denying it at the same time.” (Trans. Arens, p.165.) 253

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What is bad are not so much those people who fight correct doctrine as a whole and by rational means, but those who give in to their passions against reason. They master the sophistry of the passions and take from doctrine only what suits them. This, too, can lead to utter godlessness.256 In their synecdochic use of doctrine, they blur the lines between the Passions more and more. Gertrude is the figure of the promessi sposi, at first driven mercilessly into the sophistry of the Passions and then becoming a master of that rhetoric herself. But her secretive love affair marks a catachrestic point in the process. It fills a gap in the novel’s vocabulary (and also in the Osservazioni) in which amore and passione do not diverge but coincide.

Between Action andLanguage: OntheQuestion ofGuilt Lucia and Agnese do not know why the signora to whom they are entrusted behaves so strangely. But the reader learns it as the narrator tells their story (in the second half of Chapter IX). In terms of the plot, Gertrude’s only function is to betray Lucia. This is but one moment, one appearance in the nearly two years of the novel’s plot, a single moment of using words to persuade Lucia to leave the convent in order to pass her to the Innominato’s Bravi. But how is it that the nun chosen to protect the fugitives becomes a traitor? Because this is to be made plausible to readers, Gertrude is introduced less as a historical figure– only in the postscript to the story does she appear as such, since it is only here that reference is made to the historical source!– rather than, as Paola Mastrocola puts it, as a “simbolo stesso del personaggio storico”.257 With a small but decisive deviation, Manzoni fulfils with her story that task of the poet which he describes in the Lettre à M.Chauvet and which consists in illuminating the inner drives of the historical actors: Car enfin que nous donne l’histoire? Des événemens qui ne sont, pour ainsi dire, connus que par leur dehors; ce que les hommes ont exécuté: mais ce qu’ils ont pensé, les sentimens qui ont accompagné leurs délibérations et leurs projets, leurs succès et leurs infortunes; les discours par lesquels ils ont fait ou essayé de faire prévaloir leurs passions et leurs volontés sur d’autres passions et sur d’autres volontés, par lesquels ils ont exprimé leur colère, ­épanché leur tristesse, par lesquels, en un mot, ils ont révélé leur individualité: tout cela, à

 “E l’oscuramento della sua mente [of man; D.S.] può qualche volta arrivare al segno (poiché a che non va l’intelletto soggiogato dalle passioni?) che quegli atti, quantunque scompagnati dall’amore della giustizia, gli paiano una specie d’espiazione: e prenda per un sentimento di religione quello che non à altro che un’illusione colontaria dell’empietà.” (OMC, XIII, 142) (“And the clouding of his mind [man’s; D.S.] may at times assume such extent (for whither does not the mind go when under the spell of the passions?) that these acts, however little love of justice may go to his side, appear to him as a kind of expiation, and that he takes for a religious feeling something which in reality is nothing but a voluntary self-deception of the impious.” Trans. Arens, p.215f.). 257  Mastrocola, “Gertrude et La Signora,” p.171. 256


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peu de chose près, est passé sous silence par l’histoire; et tout cela est le domaine de la poésie.258

With the biography of Gertrude up until her encounter with Lucia, the narrator now provides a story of inner motivations, of compulsions, fears and longings, which takes place about a year after the crime against her fellow sister. It is thus a quite poetic, quite inventive story to explain Gertrude’s strangeness. The deviation from the recommended task, however, lies in the fact that the novelist, in taking the mysterious apparition as the starting point for his explanations, does not start from the historical case. What thus remains in the dark is the ‘historical’ deed.259 Gertrude’s novel is the very first to bring forth the historical trial records. Manzoni, in other words, is interested in her historical right, in her ‘historical power’.260 So what does Gertrude ‘do’ when she betrays Lucia? What does her act consist of? To preempt in a paradoxical way: It consists in her doing nothing. Gertrude is not the mistress of her will, but the mistress of the wills of others; she is without individuality, or rather a divided individual in struggle with herself and with the world. In Manzoni’s universe of characters, she stands for a pre-conversion state: for inner conflict, indecision, and weakness of will.261 While Renzo encounters increasingly powerless instances (and nature) in the course of his journey, Lucia faces an instance between power and powerlessness in Gertrude. At the center of the poetic reconstruction of Gertrude’s story is her false vow to the convent, forced by her father. A forced yes based not on consensus but on her sheer presence: La nostra infelice era ancor nascosta nel ventre della madre, che la sua condizione era già irrevocabilmente stabilita. Rimaneva soltanto da decidersi se sarebbe un monaco o una monaca; decisione per la quale faceva bisogno, non il suo consenso, ma la sua presenza. (PS, IX, 155)262

 “For what does history give us? Events which are, so to speak, known only by their exterior; what men have executed: but what they have thought, the feelings which have accompanied their deliberations and their projects, their successes and their misfortunes; the speeches by which they have made or tried to make their passions and their wills prevail over other passions and other wills, by which they have expressed their anger, poured out their sadness, by which, in a word, they have revealed their individuality: all this, to a small extent, is passed over in silence by history; and all this is the domain of poetry.” Manzoni, “Lettre à M.r Chauvet,” p.122. 259  “Sembra che Manzoni descriva un mistero quasi per poterne poi inventare la spiegazione.” (Mastrocola, “Gertrude et La Signora”, p.173). 260  In this way he shows, with Cornelia Vismann, that the history of law is always also the history of files (Akten. Medientechnik und Recht, Frankfurt a. M.: Fischer 2000). 261  Cf. for Gertrude’s tragedy as Augustinian akrasia: Pierantonio Frare, Il potere della parola. Dante, Manzoni, Primo Levi, Novara: interlinea srl edizioni 2010, pp.47–80 (“La parola che impedisce: Il principe padre e Gertrude (I promessi sposi, IX–X)”). 262  “Our unfortunate was still in the womb when her status had already been irrevocably determined. It only remained to decide whether she would be a monk or a nun, a decision which, though it did not require her consent, did require her presence.” (p.197f.) 258

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Step by step, the narrator traces how the principe padre denies the youngest daughter both love and a word of her own in favor of family reasons and primogeniture.263 The most irritating thing about this story is the narrator’s indecisiveness in evaluating it, which ends with the forbidden relationship with Egidio and a murder. Until she enters the convent, the roles are clear: Gertrude is the victim, the perpetrator her father. But upon entering the convent, the narrator’s evaluation of her behavior changes radically and abruptly. Gertrude becomes a complicit victim– analogous to the complicity of the confessed Piazza and Mora, who produce further victims with their confessions. Rooted in this rupture of the narrator’s judgment is the inconclusive debate over Gertrude’s guilt.264 Whether femme fatale or Christian tragedy of the will, what matters to me here is that Manzoni, by literally centering the story around a legally undecidable speech act – the forced vow – introduces language into the novel as a performative power. In doing so, he employs a procedure diametrically opposed to that found in Renzo’s story of escape, in the course of which language is devalorized. According to the novel, Gertrude is guilty not because she has sex (or kills a fellow sister or betrays Lucia) but because she says the wrong thing. This implies that the right thing, the right sex, the right love can be said, confessed. In Fermo e Lucia, the narrator still explicitly sets out to expose Geltrude’s false vow, called “solenne professione,” as a false sacrifice in biblical diction and sublime style: Il sacrificio fu consumato, il dono fu posto su l’altare, ma era di frutti della terra; la mano che ve lo aveva posto non era monda; il cuore non lo offriva; e lo sguardo del cielo non discese sovr’esso. (FL, II, IV, 203)265

This explicit designation of profession as an impure sacrifice went too far for Manzoni’s early proofreader Ermes Visconti. He notes in the margin of the manuscript, “Troppo asceticismo: e per una monacazione con voti irrevocabili, con sanzione di legge civile!”266 Why does Visconti find fault with excessive asceticism? Apparently he finds the rhetoric, effectively heightened in the doubled tricolon, exaggerated and distasteful, because he overhears in it a hyper-pastoral tone that ‘additionally’ sacralizes a state that is socially and legally sanctioned.267 In doing so, he fails to realize that what matters to Manzoni is not the sacralization of the status

 The idea of using paternal pedagogy to stop the daughter’s love points to another parallel with Ann Radcliffe’s Confessional. There it is the Marchese Vivaldi who tries to dissuade Vincentio from loving Ellena through investigative conversation. 264  Cf. for instance Baldi, “La Signora di Monza”, p.245: “Le cose cambiano dopo la monacazione. […] Quindi ora è colpevole […].” 265  “The sacrifice was accomplished, the offering was laid upon the altar, yet it was an earthly fruit. The hand that offered it was not pure; not the heart did it offer, nor the eye of heaven rest upon it.” 266  Manzoni, Fermo e Lucia, ed. Chiari/Ghisalberti, p.821. 267  Visconti goes on to annotate another passage as inappropriately ‘ascetico’, though another as successfully ‘ascetic’ (the scene in which Geltrude, with the ‘snake’s nose’, wins over two fellow sisters as accomplices in her relationship with Egidio): “Qui l’ascetismo [sic] è bellezza: di pensiero, di stile, di intimo accordo alle intenzioni religiose dello scrittore” (ibid., p.823). 263


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at all, but that of the speech act. Manzoni heeds the criticism, as he heeds most of the criticism of his early reader friends Visconti and Fauriel, and the phrase is dropped in Promessi sposi. At the same time, however, he reinforces the intended effect by no longer referring to the speech act as such (the phrase “solenne professione” is also dropped in the final version), but by differentiating it narratively as a forced response. In this way, the actor of the vow is made ambiguous and ‘sacrificial guilt’ is transferred to the father, although it is interesting to note, in comparison with the judge-­psychology of the Colonna Infame, that the father is portrayed not as subject to passion but as absolutely self-controlled. A seductive antichrist who, without torture or physical violence, gets by almost entirely on the promise of impunity, and manages that his will becomes deed with Gertrude’s yes to the convent.268 He reproduces his sex ‘by begetting children and tormenting himself to torment them in the same way’ (‘destinato […] a procrear cioè de’ figliuoli, per tormentarsi a tormentarli nella stessa maniera’, PS, IX, 155). His determination plants in Gertrude a sense of ‘fateful necessity’ (‘il sentimento d’una necessità fatale’, PS, IX, 156). When she is at home outside the convent for the prescribed month, a ‘mysterious curse’ (‘un anatema misterioso’, PS, IX, 161) weighs on her there. Instead of being able to enjoy the freedom in the family she has looked forward to, her father’s castle is made into another monastic hell, from which only the real monastery can deliver: ‘Il solo castello nel quale Gertrude potesse immaginare un rifugio tranquillo e onorevole, e che non fosse in aria, era il monastero, quando si risolvesse d’entrarci per sempre.’ (PS, IX, 164f.)269 Gertrude would be a homo sacer, cursed to sacrificial existence, cut off even from the last hope of salvation through religion, if she did not continue to respond even after entering the monastery, thus perpetuating the ‘impure sacrifice’ itself. Thus, the second means of focusing on an effective speech act is to create a symmetry in her story that turns the once-pronounced bond to the heavenly Bridegroom into a chain of false bonds– first to the Father, then to the villain Egidio. The father’s key instrument lies in his phallic, incestuous subjugation of Gertrude’s sexual nature. The moment he finally takes victorious advantage of is when the emotionally isolated Gertrude chooses the page as the surrogate object of her desire, and is discovered with the paper ‘on which she had better have written nothing’. Locked in her room, four or five days later, Gertrude writes the letter to her father in which she agrees to do anything. And in the conversation that follows, presented by the narrator as that critical moment to which I shall return in a moment, the first supplement of the ‘true vow’ falls: the “‘Ah sì!’” (PS, X, 168) in direct

 Frare, Il potere della parola, p.61f., points out that this fatal, performative power of Gertrude is already alluded to in the words of the Padre Guardian receiving Agnese and Lucia: “Gran cervellino che è questa signora! […] Ma chi la sa prendere per il suo verso, le fa far ciò che vuole” (PS, IX, 154). (“Strange person, this signora! […] But he who knows how to take her, achieves from her what he wants.” p.196f.) 269  “The only castle in which Gertrude could imagine a quiet and honorable refuge, and which was not a castle in the air, was the convent, if she chose to enter it for good.” (p.210) 268

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speech, more a moan than spoken word, an involuntary act of extorted affection,270 which the father perfidiously manages to turn into the irrevocable vow. After this wrested yes, everything becomes a mere, inverted, legal formality: from the application for admission before the abbess to the examination interview with the nun’s vicar to the supposed vow: Fu dunque fatta la sua volontà; e, condotta pomposamente al monastero, vestì l’abito. Dopo dodici mesi di noviziato, pieni di pentimenti e di ripentimenti, si trovò al momento della professione, al momento cioè in cui conveniva, o dire un no più strano, più inaspettato, più scandaloso che mai, o ripetere un sì tante volte detto; lo ripetè, e fu monaca per sempre. (PS, X, 183)271

The desperate cry of love “‘Ah sì!’” has become her ‘will’, which after twelve months she merely ‘repeats’. After that, the struggle for commitment is not over. The narrator notes a second time that Gertrude is denied the consolation of religion. Thus she continues to struggle in vain against the symbolic father, repeating her answer before Egidio, the ‘scellerato di professione’ (‘professional[s] malefactor’, p.236): “La sventurata rispose.” (PS, X, 186)272 What follows this response is the symmetrical intensification of what already followed the submission to the father. After the first “Ah sì!” the father is able to change his strategy from depriving her of love to granting her pseudo-freedoms: Gertrude is allowed to ‘decide for herself’ whether to go to the convent today or tomorrow and who should be her godmother. She proves to be her father’s docile creature, skilfully lying to the abbess and the vicar of nuns, and imitating her father’s vindictiveness by ensuring that the chambermaid who betrayed her relationship with the page is dismissed. It is precisely these criminal skills that Gertrude develops after consenting to her relationship with Egidio: She enjoys– for a short time– a false affection, she lies and cheats. And just as she took revenge on the chambermaid before entering the convent, the revenge now goes as far as the murder of a fellow nun. Thus the righteous speech act of the “solenne professione” is overarched by its before (“‘Ah sì!’”) and after (“La sventurata rispose.”). Gertrude’s fatal yes becomes a formalistic self-starter. That Manzoni is concerned with this speech-act-theoretical critique of ‘formalità’ is shown by the radically right-critical passage from Fermo e Lucia to which Enrico Opocher has referred in “Lo ‘scetticismo giuridico’ del Manzoni” and which is omitted from Promessi sposi.273 At the moment when Gertrude is sent home for a time because of the legislation governing religious vows, the narrator ponders the principled and  Cf. the passage: “‘Ah sì!’ esclamò Gertrude, scossa dal timore, preparata dalla vergogna, e mossa in quel punto da una tenerezza istantanea.” (PS, X, 168) (“‘Ah yes!’ exclaimed Gertrude, shaken by fear, worn down by shame, and touched at that moment by a sudden tenderness.” S. 213) 271  “[A]nd so her wish was granted: She was escorted with pomp to the convent, and she took the veil. After twelve months of novitiate, full of regrets and regrets of regrets, came the day of the vows, that is, the moment when it was necessary either to say no, which would be more alienating, unexpected, and scandalous than ever, or to repeat the yes she had said so many times before. She repeated it and became a nun forever.” (p.232) 272  “The wretch answered.” (p.236) 273  Cf. Enrico Opocher, “Lo ‘scetticismo giuridico’ del Manzoni”, p.55f. 270


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inescapable fallibility of legal ‘formalità’. According to this, all application of law has two principal weaknesses: Accade talvolta che dove gli uomini hanno deciso che una cosa non può esser realmente fatta che nei tali e tali modi, la cosa si fa realmente in modi tutti diversi e che non erano stati preveduti. In questo caso, la cosa non vale, anzi non è fatta. E non andate a farvi compatire da un sapiente col volergli dimostrare che la è fatta; egli lo sa quanto voi; ma sa qualche cosa di più, vede nella cosa stessa una distinzione profonda; vede, e vi insegna che la cosa materialmente è fatta, legalmente non è. Dall’altra parte accade pure, che dopo essere stato dagli uomini predetto, deciso, statuito che, dove si trovino i tali e tali caratteri esiste certamente il tal fatto, si sono trovati altri uomini più accorti dei primi (cosa che pare impossibile eppure è vera) i quali hanno saputo far nascere tutti quei caratteri senza fare la cosa stessa. In questo secondo caso bisogna riguardare la cosa come fatta; e darebbe segno di mente ben leggiera e non avvezza a riflettere, o di semplicità rustica affatto colui che, ostinandosi ad esaminare il merito, volesse dimostrare che la cosa non è. (FL, II, II, 169)274

In the first case, the modus operandi is established, whereby a thing only acquires validity when certain procedural criteria (‘modi’) are fulfilled. At the same time, however, this produces ‘other’, namely material facts: “la cosa materialmente è fatta, legalmente non è”. In the second case – which is brought into play for Geltrude– it is not procedures but properties (“caratteri”) that are determined for validity. The thing is valid if it possesses these or those properties. But then, according to the narrator, there will always be people (such as the padre principe) who know how to substitute the properties for the actual thing. The narrator immediately breaks off this deconstruction of law to return to Geltrude’s story, interestingly referring to its necessity for the ‘even more extensive story’ “degli sposi promessi”.275 In principle, one could also see in Gertrude’s case the first-mentioned formal weakness of the law: Her vow is only materially valid, but not legally, because the criterion of consensus is not met. For this, however, the narrator does not want to come down on one side or the other; he subsumes the case under the second category: the vow has legal validity without having been factually ‘made’, without implying a ‘material fact’. Once in the monastery, Geltrude disrupts the monastic legal order by  “Sometimes it happens that where men have laid down that a thing can really be done only in one way or another, the thing is actually done in quite another way, which was not intended at all. In that case, the thing does not apply, indeed, was not done at all. You need not then have a scholar pity you by trying to persuade him that the thing was made after all, for he knows this as well as you. But he knows more; he sees a profound difference in the thing; he sees and instructs you that the thing has been made materially, but legally it has not been made. On the other hand, it happens, on the other hand, that where men have foreseen, fixed, statued certain properties for the real existence of a thing, there are found other men, even cleverer than the first (which seems impossible, but is true), who have succeeded in producing all these properties without yet making the thing itself. In this second case the thing must be considered as made. And to him who would persist in examining it and showing that the thing is not made at all, would be imputed frivolity, a want of reflection, if not a peasant simplicity.” 275  Cf. FL, II, II, 170: “[…] siamo per ora impegnati a raccontare quella [storia; D.S.] di Geltrude, in quanto ella è necessaria a conoscere la storia ancor più vasta degli sposi promessi.” (“[…] for the time being we are concerned with the story of Gertrude insofar as it is necessary for the still more extensive story of the bride and groom promised to each other.”) 274

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simulating and speaking with the false words of the patriarchal body instead of her own. She is thus once again a counter-image to Renzo: while the latter fails to revolutionize a false, political body of law with his subjective words, she contributes to the further decay of that body of law with her false, penetrating words. Renzo is mere male nature, a material fact without law; Gertrude, on the other hand, is (coercive) law without nature, between man and woman. Necessary to the novel as a whole is this case of the erosion of the legal order, because Renzo and Lucia’s marriage, their marriage vows (which will not be pronounced, even at the end!), are to acquire a formal and fictional evidence. In Gertrude’s story, all instances of judgment fail, including religion276 and reason.277 As open as the end of this historia calamitatum remains, the narrator provides clear indications of its beginning. Compared to the ‘innocent’ Lucia, Gertrude is, typologically speaking, indeed like an Eve to Mary, but with the crucial difference that at first, it is not she herself who was lacking, but rather her paternal creator, who instead of religion raises her to be a ‘larva’. The narrator does not, Augustinistically, rely on an original sin on Gertrude’s part, but, on the contrary, isolates from her story a natural, gracious, feminine sexuality that the father converts into a false yes. While the Colonna Infame marks an outer limit of the novel’s fiction by imposing free will on the judges, Gertrude’s episode thus becomes an inner limit where a sexual, passionate origin of free will is explored. Gertrude’s phrase “La sventurata rispose,” it is sometimes argued, refers to the “respondit mulier” of Eve in Gen 3:2, and like her, Gertrude thus succumbs to the temptations of the flesh.278 This may be true, but unlike Eve, Gertrude has no contact with her Creator or an Adam at the moment she responds to Egidio. The problem is that her first yes, her sufferingly passionate “‘Ah sì!’”– perhaps the novel’s most emphatic yes of all –falls on the wrong ears. The convent is brought to Gertrude not as a place of heavenly bliss but as a territory to which she, as abbess, must extend the earthly power and glory of the noble family. Gertrudina is given nuns’ dolls to play with, and when she is sent to the convent at six, with all the complicity of the educating nuns, she is pampered with privileges designed to incite her vocation to rule. In the convent, however, her revolt now begins, which the narrator conflates with the awakening of her sexuality, with her becoming a woman. In the contact with the schoolgirls, who are not destined for the convent, images of longing arise, of weddings, entertainment and summer holidays (as with Renzo when he crosses the Adda). And almost as if in passing, Manzoni invents puberty: “Queste immagini cagionarono nel cervello di Gertrude quel movimento, quel brulichìo che produrrebbe un gran paniere di fiori appena colti, messo davanti a un alveare.” (PS, IX,  The narrator explicitly states this, the two most important passages (once before, the other time after the monastery entry) being: PS, IX, 159 and PS, X, 183. 277  Enrico Opocher comments on the quoted passage as follows: “Qui non si tratta più del rapporto tra diritto e forza, ma, piuttosto, di un radicale limite del diritto come idea umana ed., anzi, come idea della ragione” (“Lo ‘scetticismo giuridico’ del Manzoni”, p.57). 278  Cf. Frare, Il potere della parola, p.65, with a reference to Cardinal Pietro Maffi, Conversazioni manzoniane col mio clero, Turin: Società editrice internazionale 1924, vol. II, p.57. 276


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157)279 Similarly to Renzo, the metaphor of nature, here: the bunch of flowers that drives the bees crazy, has sexual connotations. Mystifyingly, the narrator evokes a force of puberty: [E] s’inoltrava in quell’età così critica, nella quale par che entri nell’animo quasi una potenza misteriosa, che solleva, adorna, rinvigorisce tutte l’inclinazioni, tutte l’idee, e qualche volta le trasforma, o le rivolge a un corso impreveduto. (PS, IX, 158)280

The awakening sexuality is denaturalized: it is “potenza misteriosa” and possesses a transforming, converting power– which either transforms to the good, the beautiful, or at least brings everything “a un corso impreveduto”.281 Tapered to an act whose author is mystified: Is it love or grace? It is difficult to decide, and with Lucia in mind, everything hinges on this undecidability. In any case, Gertrude’s tender puberty resembles what Jean-Luc Marion has described as a “phénomène érotique,” and which is characterized both by an erotic intrinsic rationality and by a phenomenality that pre-exists the subject.282 Crucially for Gertrude, this active capacity for love, the yes to giving love and being able to love, is systematically suppressed. The paternal education of superiority, power and superbia is directed precisely against this kind of receptive affectivity, which in Gertrude can therefore only express itself as a dream and escape from reality:

 “These images produced in Gertrude’s mind that excitement, that swarming roar, which a large basket of freshly cut flowers in front of a beehive would produce.” (p.201) For comparison, Renzo again: “Renzo, in vece d’inquietarsene [before the rain; note D.S.], ci sguazzava dentro, se la godeva in quella rinfrescata, in quel susurrìo, in quel brulichìo dell’erbe e delle foglie, tremolanti, gocciolanti, rinverdite, lustre; metteva certi respironi larghi e pieni; e in quel risolvimento della natura sentiva come più liberamente e più vivamente quello che s’era fatto nel suo destino.” (PS, XXXVII, 642) (“But instead of protecting himself from it [the rain; note D.S.], he plunged into it with relish, enjoying the refreshment, the rush, the brisk germination of the shivering, dripping grasses and leaves that were turning green and shining again. He sucked in the air to the full, and in this redemptive discharge of nature felt, as it were, still more freely and vividly the redeeming turn that had taken place in his destiny.” p.813) 280  “[A]nd she came to that critical age when it seems as if a mysterious power moved into the soul, elevating, beautifying, rejuvenating, and sometimes transforming all inclinations and ideas, or setting them on an unforeseen course.” (p.202) 281  The mention of the ‘thornbush of sensuality’ (vepres libidinum), which grows over the head of the 16-year-old Augustine and is further incited by his father, is downright contrary: “Quin immo ubi me ille pater in balneis vidit pubescentem et inquieta indutum adulescentia, quasi iam ex hoc in nepotes gestiret, gaudens matri indicavit, gaudens vinulentia, in qua te iste mundus oblitus est creatorem suum et creaturam tuam pro te amavit, de vino invisibili perversae atque inclinatae in ima voluntatis suae.” (“On the contrary, my father, as he was, when he noticed the signs of bursting manhood and the urge of my young body at the baths, told his mother about it with pleasure, as if he were already toasting the grandson, reveling in the intoxication in which this world forgets you, its creator, and loves your creature instead of you, drunk on the secret stupor wine of its perverse and basely inclined aspirations.”) Augustine, Confessions, transl. Joseph Bernhart, Munich: Insel 1987 (1955), II, 3, 6. 282  Jean-Luc Marion, Le phénomène érotique, Paris: Grasset 2003.– “Puis-je aimer, moi le premier?”, is the lover’s first question. 279

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Ciò che Gertrude aveva fino allora più distintamente vagheggiato in que’ sogni dell’avvenire, era lo splendore esterno e la pompa: un non so che di molle e d’affettuoso, che da prima v’era diffuso leggermente e come in nebbia, cominciò allora a spiegarsi e a primeggiare nelle sue fantasie. S’era fatto, nella parte più riposta della mente, come uno splendido ritiro: ivi si rifugiava dagli oggetti presenti, ivi accoglieva certi personaggi stranamente composti di confuse memorie della puerizia, di quel poco che poteva vedere del mondo esteriore, di ciò che aveva imparato dai discorsi delle compagne; si tratteneva con essi, parlava loro, e si rispondeva in loro nome; ivi dava ordini, e riceveva omaggi d’ogni genere. (PS, IX, 158 f.)283

It is these castles in the air, phantasmagorias, on the basis of which Gertrude is sometimes compared to Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. “Compare già in lei una sorta di Bovary claustrale,” Ezio Raimondi and Luciano Bottoni comment on the passage.284 The comparison is flawed, however, because unlike Madame Bovary, Gertrude does not read (or rather because she is not allowed to read); her desire is rooted neither in profane nor spiritual literature, but in a nature perverted by the law of the father. The latter meets the daughter’s rebellion with emotional blackmail, a withdrawal of love that he pushes until Gertrude’s will and nature give way. And so the critical moment – the climax of Gertrude’s senseless rebellion, in which she writes the fatal letter of repentance to the father– is also captured by the narrator (in the expository first sentence of the tenth chapter) in the image of an unfolding nature: Vi son de’ momenti inui l’animo, particolarmente de’ giovani, è disposto in maniera che ogni poco d’istanza basta a ottenerne ogni cosa che abbia un’apparenza di bene e di sacrifizio: come un fiore appena sbocciato, s’abbandona mollemente sul suo fragile stelo, pronto a concedere le sue fragranze alla prim’aria che gli aliti punto d’intorno. Questi momenti, che si dovrebbero dagli altri ammirare con timido rispetto, son quelli appunto che l’astuzia interessata spia attentamente e coglie di volo, per legare una volontà che non si guarda. (PS, X, 167)285

The soul in the state of latency resembles a flower swaying back and forth on a fragile stem, ready to give up its fragrance to the slightest breeze. Unlike for Pascal’s thinking reed, which survives even the greatest natural disasters because it can think, for this flower, which acts by giving off a fragrance, any movement of nature  “What Gertrude had hitherto most raved about in her dreams of the future had been the outward splendour and pomp; now a certain softness and tenderness, which had before stirred but dimly and mistily in them, began to unfold and come to the fore in her fancies. In the most hidden corner of her mind she had created for herself something like a splendid sanctuary, to which she withdrew from present things; there she received imaginary persons, strangely composed of confused childhood memories, of what little she could see of the external world, and of what she had gathered from the speeches of her companions; with these larvae she conversed, asked questions and answered in their name, issued orders and received homage.” (p.202f.) 284  Alessandro Manzoni, I promessi sposi, ed. Ezio Raimondi and Luciano Bottoni, Milan: Principato 1987, p.169. 285  “There are moments when the soul, especially in the young, is so susceptible that the slightest impulse suffices to reach all that has an appearance of goodness and sacrifice from it-as a justbloomed flower sways softly on its frail stem, ready to yield its fragrance to the first breath of air that plays about it. These moments, which should be admired with shy awe by others, are the very ones for which selfish shrewdness lurks, and which it seizes in flight to make docile to a will that is not on its guard.” (p.212) 283


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poses a threat.286 The narrator shares all his pity for the adolescent thus raped, robbed of her nature/grace. Gertrude’s sexuality is not condemned, but is a prerequisite for becoming a subject. This is evident in the narrator’s affectionate antonomasia– “povera innocentina” (PS, IX, 157) or “la poveretta” (PS, IX, 161)– but also in the unequivocal condemnation of the father, which goes as far as the parenthetical note denying him the patronymic: “Il principe (non ci regge il cuore di dargli in questo momento il titolo di padre) […]” (PS, X, 167).287 Her false, desperate confession of love “‘Ah sì!” from which she becomes complicit, does not extinguish the power of love, but merely allows it to tip over into the illegal, the ‘material’, into false sex, murder and betrayal.

Latent Love: Gertrude– Lucia Gertrude, as already mentioned, is only half a Schedoni, only half a villain, or, as one might say with renewed reference to Ann Radcliffe’s Enlightenment fantasy, a terrifying apparition that cannot be rationally explained and opens the view to a dimension of injustice, of evil if you will, that does not exist in Radcliffe’s novel universe. It is helpful here to recall once again the fundamental, i.e. poetological and not merely motivic, borrowings that Manzoni was able to take from English terrorist novel writing.288 The originality of Radcliffe’s fantasy, which stands out above all from that of M.G. Lewis, lies in the interiorization of horror.289 It distinguishes a physically perceptible horror and disgust triggered by blood, murder, and violence from the indeterminate dread of terror, which is ascribed a releasing, liberating effect: Terror and horror are so far opposite, that the first expands the soul, and awakens the faculties to a high degree of life; the other contracts, freezes, and nearly annihilates them. I apprehend, that neither Shakspeare [sic] nor Milton by their fictions, nor Mr. Burke by his reasoning, anywhere looked to positive horror as a source of the sublime, though they all agree that terror is a very high one; and where lies the great difference between horror and

 “L’homme n’est qu’un roseau, le plus faible de la nature, mais c’est un roseau pensant. Il ne faut pas que l’univers entier s’arme pour l’écraser; une vapeur, une goutte d’eau suffit pour le tuer. Mais quand l’univers l’écraserait, l’homme serait encore plus noble que ce qui le tue puisqu’il sait qu’il meurt et l’avantage que l’univers a sur lui, l’univers n’en sait rien. Toute notre dignité consiste donc en la pensée. C’est de là qu’il faut nous relever et non de l’espace et de la durée, que nous ne saurions remplir. Travaillons donc à bien penser: voilà le principe de la morale.” (Pascal, Pensées, fragm. 186 (Le Guern)/347 (Brunschvicg), p.161.) 287  “The Prince (we cannot bring ourselves to call him Father here)” (p.212). 288  This was the contemporary term under which the novel fashion boomed and which an anonymous writer coined for the genre in 1797. It was not until the 1920s and 1930s that the term Gothic novel became established as a category of literary description, with recourse to Horace Walpole’s subtitle “A Gothic Story” for his novel The Castle of Otranto (1765) (Frank, “Ästhetik des Schreckens”, p.161f.). 289  Cf. the instructive afterword by Norbert Miller, “The Liberating Horror. Ann Radcliffe and the Eighteenth-Century English Gothic Novel’, in Ann Radcliffe, The Italiäner oder: Der Beichtstuhl der schwarzen Büßermönche, Munich: Hanser 1973, pp.641–668. 286

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terror, but in the uncertainty and obscurity, that accompany the first [sic], respecting the dreaded evil?290

Horror is placed in the service of high literature – with recourse to Edmund Burke’s Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful (1757)– it is literally sublimated and opens up a space of heightened sensibility. In keeping with this view, everything creepy and terrifying in Italian, every scream, sound, and trace of violence, proves in the end to be a logically comprehensible component of intrigue, explained supernatural. The penitent monk Schedoni, who allows himself to be harnessed by Vivaldi’s mother, is the evil figure who holds this intrigue together: The marriage becomes possible with his gradual exposure as the fratricide and criminal Conte di Bruno. In the end, sensitive conjugal love triumphs over evil (penitential monasticism,291 Inquisition, false fathers, fratricides and traitors). I promessi sposi can thus draw on two ideas: the plot of marriage and the idea of telling a love story as a horror story. While Radcliffe allegorizes evil, or personifies and domesticates it in Schedoni, in order to universalize conjugal love, Manzoni allegorizes (conjugal) law in order to universalize couple-love as a community of love. The main difference, somewhat crudely put, is that Radcliffe’s narrator can argue enlightenment-sensitive-natural law and celebrate a true happy ending, whereas Manzoni’s narrator aims at a transcendent law-establishing instance of love. But it is revealing that he apparently relies on a poetics of interiorized horror precisely for this transcendent right-justifying instance. And that he takes the male figure out of this poetics. Unlike Vivaldi, who is delivered to the Inquisition in Rome by Schedoni’s henchmen and who in the end turns out to be the one who allowed himself to be terrorized by superstition more than Ellena,292 Renzo is not sent into such an interior terror of fear and indefinite threat at all. Renzo flees while Lucia is extradited; he learns about another world– the historical, political story in  Ann Radcliffe, “On the Supernatural in Poetry,” The New Monthly Magazine and Literary Journal, Part I: Original Papers 16.1 (1826), pp.149f.; quoted in Frank, “Aesthetics of Horror,” pp.476f. 291  The cliché that the monastery becomes a place of action and crime is still present in Padre Cristoforo’s conversion. Cf. the ingenious conversation in which the Conte zio blackmails the Padre principale into transferring Padre Cristoforo: “‘Già lei sa meglio di me che soggetto fosse al secolo, le cosette che ha fatte in gioventù.’ ‘È la gloria dell’abito questa, signor conte, che un uomo, il quale al secolo ha potuto far dir di sè, con questo indosso, diventi un altro. E da che il padre Cristoforo porta quest’abito…’” (PS, XIX, 327) (“‘Well, then, you also know better than I what sort of a man he had been in his worldly life, and what pretty things he did in his youth.’ ‘It is the glory of this religious habit, Count, that a man who may have made a name for himself in worldly life becomes another in it.’ And since Father Cristoforo wears this habit …’”, p.414.) 292  Cf. the conversation between Vivaldi and Schedoni at the end of the novel: Vivaldi asks: “Did you believe that an anonymous adviser [the monk Nicola di Zampari sent by Schedoni; note D.S.] could have more influence with me than my affection, or that I could be terrified by such stratagems into a renunciation of its objects?” And Schedoni answers: “I believed […] that the disinterested advice of a stranger might have some weight on you; but I trusted more to the impression of awe, which the conduct and seeming foreknowledge of that stranger where adapted to inspire in a mind like yours; and I thus endeavoured to avail myself of your prevailing weakness [namely, his “susceptibility” for the superstitious; note D.S.].” (Radcliffe, The Italian, p.397.) 290


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which he narrowly escapes the gallows. The novel’s characters are poetologically gendered. This has rarely been explicitly recognized by scholars as a consistent procedure. One exception is Verina R. Jones, who discovers two complementary hero types in Renzo and Lucia, a fairy-tale hero in Renzo (following Vladimir Propp’s fairy-tale morphology) and an “eroina gotica” in Lucia, which she develops from parallel reading with Radcliffe’s Italian.293 It is precisely at this point that we should take up the question of how and whether such a complementarity, which Jones states as paradoxical, functions poetologically. For it seems crucial to me that the two hero types – fairy-tale hero (resp. picaresque, anti-epic or also Sterne’s, Swift’s, Defoe’s adventurer hero) and ‘scary heroine’ – are only dichotomously unfolded in order to be able to transform them into a new couple-protagonist, into the ‘married couple’, and thus into a new novel. Jones recognizes in the resolution of Lucia’s vow of chastity the magical device of Renzo’s story: ‘[I]l mezzo fatato offerto dal donatore è lo scioglimento di Lucia dal voto di verginità’.294 In Lucia’s tale of horror, however, she then sees a subversion of this fairy-tale structure, using as her main argument the physical disenchantment of the character by her Bergamo compatriots, who partout cannot detect any beauty in this ‘principessa’. In what follows, I would like to argue against how fairy tale and Gothic novel are poetologically fused in the handover scene in Chapter XXXVI, which is rightly recognized as central. The Gothic novel does not subvert the fairy tale structure; rather, its aesthetic of effect overwrites or incorporates that of the fairy tale. Lucia’s inner world, intertextually focused on a poetics of fear generation, generates or produces Renzo’s outer world, which the latter in turn perceives– to speak with Radcliffe’s distinction of psychic terror and physical horror – as the ‘merely external’, visible horror of the physical world, as a regime of injustice (famine, plague, and war) to which, meanwhile, he is immune because he receives Lucia. Lucia’s terror is the key of the novel, producing or, theologizing, justifying and redeeming Renzo’s profane curiositas and his anti-­epic revolts. The most symptomatic passage in this respect is Renzo’s crossing of the Adda, described above: his journey is a permanent turning back, distancing himself from Lucia and drawing closer to nature, until he hears the voice of his beloved in the plague hospital in Milan.295 What does all this have to do with Gertrude? And again the question: what does Gertrude do when she betrays Lucia? Well, Gertrude stands between worlds, between history and fiction, power and powerlessness, between wrong and right; the narrator breaks off her story to place a dubious right of her actions in the space of the novel.

 Verina R. Jones, Le ‘Dark Ladies’ manzoniane e altri saggi sui “Promessi sposi”, Rome: Salerno Editrice 1998, pp.109–120 (“Tra storia, fiaba e romanzo nero: Il viaggio nei Promessi sposi”). 294  Ibid., p.113. 295  Cf. his decisive defense against terror at the river crossing: “A un certo punto, quell’uggia, quell’orrore indefinito con cui l’animo combatteva da qualche tempo, parve che a un tratto lo soverchiasse. Era per perdersi affatto; ma atterrito, più che d’ogni altra cosa, del suo terrore, richiamò al cuore gli antichi spiriti, e gli comandò che reggesse.” (PS, XVII, 294; Herv. D.S.) (“At a certain point the vague shudder, the vague horror, with which he had been struggling for a while, seemed to overwhelm him. He was near to losing all courage, but more terrified at his own fright than at anything else, he recalled to his heart the old spirits of life and commanded them to stand firm.” p.373; Herv. D.S). 293

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This has led many to see her episode as the literary climax of the novel,296 and that her character has taken on a life of its own as an outsourced book,297 as opera, theatre and cinema. With her relationship to Egidio, who is none other than the Innominato “uno de’ più stretti ed intimi colleghi di scelleratezze” (PS, XX, 341),298, Gertrude represents the link to that power which Renzo never encounters and to which Lucia is delivered. Importantly, in her encounter with Lucia, there is a discrepancy in informality: Lucia does not know ‘whom’ she encounters, while the reader is opened to her mystery as misguided sexual potency– and unrepented guilt. Whereas after the couple’s separation Renzo’s story is realistically told and in the same move profaned as a ‘fairy tale’ (mere text, écriture), Lucia’s story is a fantastic, allegorical novel, sacralized as true fiction and pure parole.299 Gertrude opens this terrorist novel when she delivers Lucia to the bravi of the Innominato. Here the tension is not so much heightened by the reader now anxiously wondering what will happen to Lucia: The tension is heightened, indeed created, by the fact that, with the flashback of Gertrude’s story, uncanny similarities and differences to Lucia emerge, so that the question that arises is: what will Lucia do – in contrast or analogy to Gertrude? Fermo e Lucia exhibits this chiasmus even more strongly in the novel’s four-volume macrostructure, which is abandoned in promessi sposi in favor of couple equilibration. The relationship of similarity and difference begins with the meticulously constructed parallelism of the two portraits of the figures, which is entirely focused on the question of what Lucia’s wedding adornment, her ‘bridalness’, actually consists of.300 Lucia is consequently introduced in Chapter II:  See, for example, Moravia, “Alessandro Manzoni o l’ipotesi di un realismo cattolico”, p.326: “La storia della Monaca di Monza fu sempre giustamente lodata come una delle parti più belle de I Promessi Sposi”.– However, Moravia records this beauty as corruption and decadence. 297  Cf. the corresponding chapters from Fermo e Lucia as a novel in German: Alessandro Manzoni, Die Nonne von Monza, transl. by Heinz Riedt, Munich: Nymphenburger Verlagsanstalt 1966. 298  “one of the closest and most trusted henchmen of the unnamed” (p.433). 299  In the sense of the maxim “il vero solo è bello” presented in Del romanzo storico: “L’arte è arte in quanto produce, non un effetto qualunque, ma un effetto definitivo. E, intesa in questo senso, è non solo sensata, ma profonda quella sentenza, che il vero solo è bello; giacchè il verosimile (materia dell’arte) manifestato e appreso come verosimile (materia dell’arte) manifestato e appreso come verosimile, è un vero, diverso bensì, anzi diversissimo dal reale, mau n vero veduto dalla mente per sempre o, per parlar con più precisione, irrevocabilmente: è un oggetto che può bensì esserle trafugato dalla dimenticanza, ma che non può essere distrutto dal disinganno.” (Manzoni, Del romanzo storico, p.298f.) (“Art is art insofar as it produces not any effect, but a definitive effect. And understood in this sense, the saying that ‘merely the true is beautiful’ is not only reasonable, but of profound truth– for the probable (in matters of art), which has been made known and conceived as probable, is a true which, though different, even very different, from the real, is nevertheless a true which the mind has seen forever, or, to speak more accurately, in an irrevocable manner; it is an object which may well be lost by forgetting, but cannot be destroyed by better knowledge.” Trans. Arens, p.357.) 300  See especially Verina R.Jones, “Manzoni’s Dark Ladies,” Romance Studies 19 (1991), 37–52 (in Italian in Dies., Le Dark Ladies manzoniane, ch. VII, pp.90–108); and Dies., “Lucia and her Sisters: Women in Alessandro Manzoni’s I promessi sposi,” in Zygmunt G. Barański, Shirley W.Vinall (eds.), Women and Italy. Essays on Gender, Culture, and History, NewYork: St. Martin’s Press 1991, pp.209–223.– The argument aims at a mythologization and Catholic ideologization of Lucia (qua approximation to Borromeo), which would be reinforced not least by negative female figures. In addition to Gertrude, the plundering woman in Milan is mentioned, who becomes diabolically pregnant with the stolen flour, as well as Toni’s wife, who is profiled as a liar, only to make Lucia’s sincerity (mentioned shortly before) more apparent. 296


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Lucia usciva in quel momento tutta attillata dalle mani della madre. Le amiche si rubavano la sposa, e le facevan forza perchè si lasciasse vedere; e lei s’andava schermendo, con quella modestia un po’ guerriera delle contadine, facendosi scudo alla faccia col gomito, chinandola sul busto, e aggrottando i lunghi e neri sopraccigli, mentre però la bocca s’apriva al sorriso. I neri e giovanili capelli, spartiti sopra la fronte, con una bianca e sottile dirizzatura, si ravvolgevan, dietro il capo, in cerchi moltiplici di trecce, trapassate da lunghi spilli d’argento, che si dividevano all’intorno, quasi a guisa de’ raggi d’un’aureola, come ancora usano le contadine nel Milanese. Intorno al collo aveva un vezzo di granati alternati con bottoni d’oro a filigrana: portava un bel busto di broccato a fiori, con le maniche separate e allacciate da bei nastri: una corta gonnella di filaticcio di seta, a pieghe fitte e minute, due calze vermiglie, due pianelle, di seta anche’esse, a ricami. Oltre a questo, ch’era l’ornamento particolare del giorno delle nozze, Lucia aveva quello quotidiano d’una modesta bellezza, rivelata allora e accresciuta dalle varie affezioni che le si dipingevan sul viso: una gioia temperata da un turbamento leggiero, quel placido accoramento che si mostra di quand’in quando sul volto delle spose, e, senza scompor la bellezza, le dà un carattere particolare. (PS, II, 38)301

In contrast to Gertrude’s famous decayed, faded beauty (“bellezza sbattuta, sfiorita e […] scomposta”, PS, IX, 149), Lucia is of a “modesta bellezza”. On her face (“viso”), “varie affezioni” stand out: moderate joy, slight restlessness, quiet sadness– feelings that do not detract from her beauty (“senza scompor la bellezza”). Thus, composed beauty, ordered and broken beauty, and disordered beauty are juxtaposed. Lucia’s feelings have a counterpart in Gertrude’s affect-craving gaze, the description of which is omitted entirely in Lucia. Gertrude’s gaze oscillates between penetrating “investigazione superba” and evasive looking away. Lucia, on the other hand, protects her gaze by holding her elbow in front of her face (“facendosi scudo alla faccia col gomito”). Whereas Gertrude’s gaze has no clear destination, Lucia’s has the question of whether she will see someone and how she will see them. Lucia’s “carattere particolare” has echoes in the description of Gertrude as a “monaca singolare.” Her singularity is reinforced by her facial expression and, it is emphasized, does not contrast with her wedding adornment, the “ornamento particolare del

 “Lucia was just stepping out of the door, festively decked out by her mother. Her friends crowded round her, pushing each other aside to see her, and she resisted the rush with the somewhat rugged modesty of peasant women, holding her elbows protectively before her face, lowering her head on her breast, and drawing her long black brows together, while her mouth, however, opened into a smile. The thick black hair was parted above the forehead by a fine white parting, and was artfully intertwined at the back of the head in multiple braids, in which were long silver pins, almost like the rays of an aureole, encircling the head, an ornament still common among the peasant women of Milan. Round her neck she wore a band of garnet stones and gold filigree balls, under which was a bodice of flowered brocade, the sleeves of which were parted and adorned with beautiful ribbons, a knee-length pleated skirt of floret silk, red stockings, and embroidered shoes, also of silk. Besides these special ornaments of the wedding day, Lucia had the commonplace one of an unobtrusive beauty, which, however, was now accentuated and heightened by the various emotions which painted themselves on her countenance: Joy, subdued by a slight uneasiness, and that quiet sadness which now and then appears on the faces of brides, and gives them, without diminishing their beauty, a peculiar character.” (p.52) 301

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giorno delle nozze.”302 Gertrude’s singularity, on the other hand, as already seen, arises primarily from the contrast with her convent habit. The order of her “vestire” is exploded from within and without: her black hair peeks out (whereas Lucia’s equally black hair is artfully parted and braided) and her waist is cinched in a worldly manner.303 When Lucia is introduced with the words “usciva in quel momento tutta attillata dalle mani della madre” (Herv. D. S.), i.e. the wedding adornment is attributed to her mother, Gertrude’s waist (“la vita attillata con una certa cura secolaresca”, PS, IX, 150, Herv. D.S.), in contrast, subtly refers to the father’s exercise of violence. Lucia and Gertrude are like two parcels: one still untouched, beautifully wrapped and promising a beautiful content; the other, already torn open and tied up again, with traces of a content one would rather not have. For the reader who reads these two portraits, analogous down to the last detail, Lucia becomes a mystery at this point at the latest: in what does Lucia’s beauty consist? What is she protecting herself from? Whom does she (not) look at? To what terrore is she at the mercy? Alessandro Bosco has written with vivacity against Lucia’s supposed innocence and chastity, arguing that Manzoni sexualizes the figure in the sense of Foucault’s sexuality dispositif. He emphasizes “l’importanza dell’elemento sessuale per la decifrazione del personaggio,” points out the erotic subtext that connects both characters, and sees in Lucia’s vow of chastity nothing other than the confession of her female sexuality.304 In this way, he rightly contradicts the opinion that persists in criticism that Gertrude and Lucia embody two contrasting ‘femininities’: ‘eros’ on the one hand and ‘pudore’ on the other.305 However, it is not a foregone conclusion

 Verina Jones draws attention to the fact that in Lucia’s peasant bridal adornment allusion is made to Carlo Porta’s Tetton (‘big-breasted one’), lover of the shoemaker Marchionn, clipped for erotic implications. In the combination of the biblical intertext (‘nigra sum sed formosa’, Hld. 1, 4) with Porta’s realistic and anti-Petrarchist love poetry, she sees a challenge to the literary canon (according to which Lucia would have to be blonde). Gertrude, on the other hand, is modeled according to the canon as a femme fatale. (Jones, “Manzoni’s Dark Ladies,” p.48f.) 303  Cf. PS, IX, 150: “Nel vestire stesso c’era qua e là qualcosa di studiato o di negletto, che annunziava una monaca singolare: la vita era attillata con una certa cura secolaresca, e dalla benda usciva sur una tempia una ciocchettina di neri capelli; cosa che dimostrava o dimenticanza o disprezzo della regola che prescriveva di tenerli sempre corti, da quando erano stati tagliati, nella cerimonia solenne del vestimento.” (“Even in the dress there was here and there something sought after or careless which indicated a rather peculiar nun: the waist was cinched with an almost fashionable care, and from the headband a black curl fell on the temple, betraying either carelessness or disregard of the rule, since it prescribed that the hair should always be worn short, after it had been shorn at the solemn ceremony of dressing.” p.192) 304  Alessandro Bosco, “Il segreto di Lucia,” in Tatiana Crivelli (ed.), Selvagge e Angeliche. Personaggi femminili della tradizione letteraria italiana, Leonforte: Insula 2007, pp. 165–180; here: p. 168. Further, id., Il romanzo indiscreto. Epistemologia del privato nei Promessi Sposi, Macerata: Quodlibet 2013. 305  Thus the commentary of Raimondi/Bottoni in Manzoni, I promessi sposi, p.199 and– in reference to the conversations between Gertrude and Lucia, which I will discuss shortly– p.337. 302


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that this sexualisation must be explained as an affirmation of bourgeois and family ideological purposes, as Bosco goes on to argue with Foucault. Gertrude and Lucia do not figure as the hysteric and faithful wife, but a power that overrides male hegemony– Gertrude in the convent as a power of injustice, Lucia ‘outside’ as a power of a just right.306 In her confrontation with Gertrude, Lucia is struck by fear, and thus begins her process of ‘conversion’, for fear, symbolized in the ostentatiously dismissive gesture of her arm, is– analogous to Renzo’s rage– her main problem. Ever since Don Rodrigo tried to seduce her on the way to the spinning mill in order to win the bet with his cousin Attilio, this fear has been her companion. Since that moment, she avoids being alone because “le strade mi facevan tanta paura” (PS, III, 41; “[she] was […] so afraid of the streets”, p.56). Lucia’s story is about transforming this fear, with Rudolf Otto, into a mysterium tremendum et fascinans.307 Lucia shares this fear, “peccato carnale proprio del corpo,”308 with Gertrude, who acts either out of fear of her father or fear of Egidio. In their conversations together, they come very close to the reason for this fear that needs to be sought out. Thus, in the Monastery of Monza– while Don Rodrigo asks the Innominato for help in kidnapping Lucia, and while Renzo becomes a wanted criminal in Milan– a fragile friendship develops between the two women. Gertrude has Lucia come to her consulting room to be comforted by her and to offer comfort in turn. They share her fate of being sufferers. Because Gertrude knows that Lucia is being persecuted by Don Rodrigo, she dares to tell her the ‘pure’ part of her persecution story (“una parte (la parte netta)”, PS, XVIII, 313), i.e. how she was persuaded by her father to enter the convent. For Lucia, this explains the nun’s strange behavior. She reacts with pity, but does not dare to respond to Gertrude’s ‘curious questions’ about Don Rodrigo’s seductions: Si schermiva anche, quanto poteva, dal rispondere alle domande curiose di quella, sulla storia antecedente alla promessa […]. Era perchè alla povera innocente quella storia pareva più spinosa, più difficile da raccontarsi, di tutte quelle che aveva sentite, e che credesse di poter sentire dalla signora. In queste c’era tirannia, insidie, patimenti; cose brutte e dolorose, ma che pur si potevan nominare: nella sua c’era mescolato per tutto un sentimento, una parola, che non le pareva possibile di proferire, parlando di sè; e alla quale non avrebbe

 Bosco only reads Lucia ‘with Foucault’, but not Renzo. If he did, he would encounter the fundamental powerlessness of the male protagonist. But since he does not question the latter’s (political, economic) capacity for action, he comes to the conclusion that it is Lucia as an inner moral instance who ‘slows down’ Renzo’s future-open, universal expansion project and puts it in national bounds. In doing so, he turns the novel into the national fiction that the text nevertheless always already explodes, and pays too little attention to the fact that Manzoni’s epistemology of the private is at the same time an epistemology of the public. (Cf. the chapter “Alle frontiere dei Promessi sposi. L’idillio impossibile e la nazione”, in Bosco, Il romanzo indiscreto, pp.205–228.) 307  Cf. OMC, XII, 137f., where Paul is quoted to the Philippians (Phil 2, 12): “La Chiesa non consiglia la speranza, ma la comanda. Essa dice a tutti di operare la salute con timore e tremore […]; ma dice anche che Dio è fedele, e non permetterà che sieno tentati oltre il loro potere [Cor 10, 13].” 308  Ezio Raimondi, Il romanzo senza idillio, p.189. 306

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mai trovato da sostituire una perifrasi che non le paresse sfacciata: l’amore! (PS, XVIII, 313)309

Here the unpronounceable word that the narrator of Fermo e Lucia explicitly wants to banish from the novel falls with great expression: “amore” with an exclamation mark. This remarkable passage replaces and concentrates the conversations about Don Rodrigo’s reenactments, which are described there in even greater detail.310 Now it is not at all established, as the critics predominantly claim, that Lucia is rightly silent, while Gertrude displays a guilty curiositas. Rather, it is simply an intimate conversation, at the centre of which is a mutually unspoken love. Gertrude’s curiosity need not be motivated by a perverse eroticism (what pleasure was Lucia’s confessions supposed to give her?); much more obvious seems an urge for self-­knowledge:311 She realizes that Lucia has resisted her seducer and is still saying no, while she has said a fatal yes. So she wants to know from Lucia how she did it, or how she does it. What is portrayed in Fermo e Lucia as a single, long, and initial conversation is perpetuated into an ongoing relationship in Promessi sposi, as if their conversations permanently revolved around the omitted topic of love. While Gertrude is usually comforted by Lucia’s “amorevolezza,” her shame (“pudore”) sometimes displeases her all the more, the text continues, “per un altro verso” (PS, XVIII, 313; “for another reason,” p.398). What other reason should the displeasure have than that of wanting to understand the deviant behavior? Now Lucia does not reveal the secret of her saying no, and thus herself comes under suspicion of owing something to someone. She remains in her protection – in “[s]i schermiva” the “s’andava schermendo” of her first appearance is taken up– and in the impossibility of speaking about herself. To the “povera innocenza” her story seems too ‘thorny’ (“spinosa”), in her ‘parlare di sè’ she omits what is most important and her protection becomes legible as deficient self-knowledge. Paolo Valesio, starting from Lucia’s ‘schermirsi’ and the quoted passage on love left out, transfers Lucia’s rhetorical strategy of ‘reticentia’ to the narrator and novelist, and from it reproaches him for having failed the challenge of the romance novel: “Avendo evocato un contesto cristiano, l’autore poi se ne schermisce, poiché non affronta in esso l’azione dell’amore, come nesso/duello di Eros e Agape. […] [L’]autore non si confronta /  “She also avoided answering, as best she could, Gertrude’s curious questions about the antecedents of their engagement […]: To poor innocence this story seemed more embarrassing and more difficult to tell than anything she had heard, and ever thought she could hear, from the Signora. The Signora’s stories were of tyranny, guile, and suffering, of things ugly and painful, but of which it was possible to speak; through her story ran a theme, a feeling, a word which, when she spoke of herself, seemed inexpressible, and for which she could never have found a circumlocution that would not have seemed shameless to her: love!” (p.397) 310  Cf. FL, II, VI, 226–230. 311  This reason of Gertrude’s curiosity has been pointed out by Enzo N. Girardi. She reveals “un bisogno di ripercorrere nella storia di un’altra, innocente, la sua stessa storia, forse nell’inconscia speranza di individuare il punto esatto del loro divergere: l’uno verso il rifiuto reciso, l’altra verso l’accettazione progressiva del male.” Frare quotes this “intuizione” of Girardi in a footnote, “che non ha avuto il rilievo che a me [Frare; D.S.] pare meriti.” (Alessandro Manzoni, I promessi sposi, ed. Enzo N. Girardi, Turin: Petrini 1982, p.153; quoted in: Frare, Il potere della parola, p.69.) 309


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scontra con il tema dell’amore colpevole”.312 Valesio notes this failure with bitterness because Manzoni’s novel, in its ‘shielding’ from erotic love, divided all nineteenth-­century Italian literature (and beyond): “Ecco la ferita, o fenditura, che segna la tentazione tragica (la tentazione del rifiuto, del ritrarsi) nella narrativa italiana.”313 It is as if he is accusing the novel of a breach of contract that destroys the communal promise of love. It is true that the promessi sposi produce their full effect against the background of the omission of the sexual act of love. But must we not see in this, instead of refusal and withdrawal, as the sharpest attack of all on the oppositional pair of eros and agape? Against the charge of a rupture, only a reading that investigates not only the closures but also the openings (the ‘promise’) of the text can actually help. The encounter between Lucia and Gertrude represents a hinge point in this. In this encounter, the text suggests, a necessity arises for Lucia to speak, i.e. to activate her love potency.

Lucia’s voto: Conversion asanError It is not only in the passage just quoted about the conversations between the two women that Lucia is described as “povera innocenza”. From the beginning of the novel, Lucia is a poster child for the topos of persecuted innocence. But why should Lucia be innocent? Against the background of the pessimistic anthropology expressed everywhere in Manzoni’s texts, the question is more than justified.314 In Die verführte Unschuld, Hellmuth Petriconi identified a decisive discursive change in topicality in a broad arc from Lucretia and Verginia to Faust’s Gretchen: it is only with secularization and, more closely, with Rousseau and Richardson that the virgin’s innocence becomes a physical and moral attribute; it is only in the Enlightenment that a political (or comic) motif becomes an instrument of bourgeois social discipline.315 Manzoni seems to make the same grand sweep through Renzo and Lucia, though this does not work without breaks and problems. On the one hand, he draws on the ancient and pre-modern paradigm according to which the illegitimate seduction of a woman is supposed to legitimize– after the fact– the overthrow of the political and/or legal order; on the other hand, he sexualizes Lucia’s

 Valesio, “Lucia, ovvero la ‘reticentia’”, p.155 and p.157– Valesio is objected to by the manzonista Giorgio Petrocchi, “Postille per Lucia”, Filologia e critica 13 (1988), pp.425–428. 313  Ibid., p.170.– The harsh disqualification of the text is strongly reminiscent of Franco Cordero’s sanction of Colonna Infame. Manzoni polarizes because he operates on the border between literature and other discourses. 314  Schulze, “Alessandro Manzoni’s Persecuted Innocence,” also questions the reason for Lucia’s innocence, though not in an anthropological-legal context. He points out that the (Radcliffeian) motif allows for the variation of Scott’s middle hero to the low heroic couple (following Augustin Thierry’s two-people theory). This, I believe, is true. But for Manzoni to mark Lucia so insistently as ‘povera innocenza’ in order to ward off the idyllic intertext of the Pastorale seems to me an unsatisfactory answer, especially as the problematic of the idyll remains either way. 315  Hellmuth Petriconi, Die verführte Unschuld, Hamburg: De Gruyter & Co 1953. 312

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‘innocence’, which must first prove to be physical and virtuous. In Del romanzo storico, Manzoni recapitulates the effectiveness of the Roman model in particular: C’era, tanto nell’epoca greca, quanto nella latina, una donna, cagione, in quella, d’un grande avvenimento, in questa d’una gran mutazione. […] Lucrezia, matrona, moglie d’uno de’ patrizi romani […] formanti una perpetua unità dominatrice, era la vittima per cui rimaneva santificato il passagio dall’aristocrazia coi consoli: e non era una memoria a abbandonarsi all’arbitrio fecondo delle fantasie.316

Manzoni attests to the Romans’ effective but unfortunately unjust collective memory: rule is based on the sacrifice of women, but the Lucia of his novel is not to be sacrificed under any circumstances: She is neither raped nor does she commit suicide like Lucrezia, nor is she killed by her father like Verginia, in whose sacrificial death the violent birth act of the Roman legal system is expiated.317 Lucia, moreover, is not to do the same as Gertrude, who is almost sacrificed to a patria potestas. At the same time, the comparison with Rome raises the question of what community, what ‘perpetua unità dominatrice’ Manzoni’s novel actually has in mind. And here one arrives at no ‘unit of dominion’ other than the married couple; everything else – Italy, nation, church, republic or monarchy – remains promise. The last chapter of the novel is unequivocal in this respect: the exiled community there consists of the oikos of Renzo and Lucia and of envious neighbours; there is no unity in sight beyond that: no priest, no church, no judiciary, neither nominato nor innominato. The legal figure of marriage is irreducible, or, as Manzoni would probably say, it cannot be represented as history, ‘storia’. It is not, as in Roman history, about an after-the-fact foundation of community, but about a foundation in the here and now. But like any foundation, this one cannot do without violence. The one hero is replaced by two heroes, a boy and a girl from the village, ‘gente di nessuno’. Innocent, in fact, they both are, which is also evident in the way Renzo becomes an innocent literally pursued by justice. Thus, in his conversation with Don Rodrigo, Padre Cristoforo once also speaks of ‘due innocenti’ (PS, VI, 88; ‘two innocents’, p.116), although the epithet is otherwise reserved for Lucia.318 But contrary to the consensual principle of marriage, in Renzo’s case the yes fails as a legally constitutive act. Psychoanalytically speaking, the displacement of the drive goal fails him: instead of sanctioning the sacramental law of marriage, he submits  Manzoni, Del romanzo storico, p.322 (“In both Greek and Latin epic, a woman was the cause, here of a great event, there of a great change. […] The ‘matrona’ Lucrezia […], wife of one of the Roman patricians who formed […] a permanent ruling unit, was the sacrifice by which the transition from a noble rule with kings to the more absolute noble rule of the consuls remained sanctified – and this was not a tradition that could be released to the terrible arbitrariness of the imagination.” Trans. Arens, p.390) 317  Cf. Marie Theres Fögen, Römische Rechtsgeschichten. On the Origin and Evolution of a Social System, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht2 2003 (2002), pp. 61–124 (“Verginia – Appius Claudius Decemvir. On the Origin of Law”). 318  Lucia is referred to as “povera innocente” eight times in the novel and as “innocente” five times. Cf. the online concordance of Promessi sposi, II Edizione Intra Text CT, Èulogos 2007 (cited from:; 26.02.2016).



3  Manzoni: Law andNovel

himself, he who is entirely nature, to that which is a mere nature. After the ‘innocent’ unity of the couple is thus split in the course of the novel in favour of a predominance of the female character, the violent act of figural (marriage) law establishment hangs essentially on Lucia’s yes. It is precisely here that the novel resorts to the modern variant of the topos of persecuted innocence, which must prove itself– and free itself– sexually and morally (or legally and religiously). In this, it is not the horror of physical violence, into which Rousseau’s or Richardson’s heroines are sent, that provides the model (abandonment, rape, anorexia, and/or death), but the terrore of Radcliffe’s heroines, which resolves in the end into a marriage that is as reasonable as it is happy. As the novel splits the couple, it also splits, escalatingly, its antagonist and ‘champion of the law’: for Renzo, the threat of Don Rodrigo (against whom he would have no chance anyway, given the difference in status) becomes first a challenge by the anonymous institution of justice and then a challenge by a plague-ridden nature. For Lucia, on the other hand, the contestation of Don Rodrigo increases via the Innominato (who, in exact analogy to Renzo, personifies a ‘nameless’ injustice) to an – eerily terrible – seduction by religion.319 Schematically, the asymmetrical legal struggle that the novel stages looks like this: Lucia's opponent: Rodrigo

Renzo's opponent: Rodrigo –


Renzo's divine law


Natural Law

Lucia’s seduction by religion, which amounts to an erroneous conversion, is the subject of the last part of my Marriage Story of the Promessi sposi. Against this background, it becomes clear why Lucia is called “povera innocente” from the beginning: The epithet marks not so much an ideal of virtue as an ideal of right.320 Lucia is innocent not because the ‘wrong’ wants to empower herself of her sexuality, but because the right itself is hidden in her sexual, feminine innocence. “Let he who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her,” says John (Jn 8:7);

 The doubling of Don Rodrigo– Innominato is repeatedly addressed in criticism, but not really explained. Macchia speaks of a digressive resolution of the Don Giovanni motif in Manzoni, without asserting a persistence (or latency) of the theme in the novel itself: “Il terzetto Don Giovanni, Zerlina, Masetto (un aristocratico e due contadini, promessi sposi) corrisponde perfettamente a quello di Don Rodrigo, Lucia, Renzo. Ma come il paesaggio è cambiato! […] Il rapimento di Lucia è la trama di un oscuro complotto, è un ‘tristo piano’ cui partecipano tanti personaggi, quasi si trattasse di rapire un grande di Spagna. La sala illuminata per una gran festa è divenuta un monastero, come nei romanzi neri.” (Macchia, Tra Don Giovanni e Don Rodrigo, p.16.) 320  Cf. Hans-Jürgen Lüsebrink, “Die verfolgte Unschuld und ihre Advokaten– zur Rhetorik und öffentlichen Wirkung empfindsamer Rede im Frankreich des 18. Jahrhunderts”, in: Klaus P.Hansen (ed.), Empfindsamkeiten, Passau: Wissenschaftsverlag Richard Rothe 1990, pp. 121–135, who examines the juridical context of the topos and thereby comes across the no less interesting figure of the “avocat sensible”. The focus here is on the “Mémoires judiciaires”, with which lawyers, jurists and writers pursued the rehabilitation of victims of justice (not infrequently fallen (housemaids)). Numerous Enlightenment thinkers, including Voltaire (“Affaire Calas”), Diderot (La Religieuse), Robespierre (“Affaire Cléreaux”), thus consolidated their reputation as “défenseurs de l’innocence opprimée”. 319

3.3  Lucia intheProcess ofSacralization


Lucia’s sublime and sublimated sexuality aims at such innocence, such sinlessness, which allows justice and judgement.. Conversion of the Innominato and Lucia’s ‘voto’ go hand in hand. After about a month’s stay in the convent, Lucia is abducted by the Innominato’s chief bravo, the Nibbio, and taken in a carriage to his castle (Chapter XX). There she meets a diabolical figure outside the law. Still marked in Fermo e Lucia as Conte del Sagrato and historical figure, in the final version the narrator’s references to historical sources remain, but the Count becomes titular and nameless, a mythical tyranny of the lawless which is miraculously, ‘providentially’ converted in the novel.321 Quoting Ripamonti, the narrator introduces the Innominato as someone who “essendo de’ primi tra i grandi della città, aveva stabilita la sua dimora in una campagna, situata sul confine; e lì, assicurandosi a forza di delitti, teneva per niente i giudizi, i giudici, ogni magistratura, la sovranità” (PS, XIX, 333).322 The Nameless One is unassailable and unpredictable, sometimes interceding for those who are in the wrong and obtaining justice through him, sometimes for those who are in the right and have no other advocate than him. His castle stands “sul confine,” between Milan and Venice, which is important, as Manzoni notes in a letter to Cantù.323 So while Renzo flees to a geographical exile in Bergamo after his Milanese arrest, Lucia is whisked away to a juridical exile. On the only path through the valley that leads to the Innominato’s castle, one passes an inn (“una taverna”) with a sun emblazoned on its inn sign at the front and back, but which is nevertheless called by everyone only the “Malanotte” inn. It thus forms the contrast to the Milanese “Osteria della luna piena”, where Renzo gets drunk for the first time in his life. Lucia, of course, will not enter the “Malanotte” establishment and somehow get away; she experiences the evil night inside. When Don Rodrigo (in Chapter XX) seeks out the Innominato with a request to take charge of the kidnapping, the Innominato quickly jots down Lucia’s name on a piece of paper – much as the informer in the Milanese osteria is intent on learning Renzo’s name.324 The parallels between Renzo’s escape and Lucia’s abduction are also expressed in the text in the contrasting function ascribed to nature. The road on which Renzo runs towards

 Critics have identified Francesco Bernardino Visconti, who is said to have renounced his criminal lifestyle-perhaps because he encountered Cardinal Borromeo at some point (cf. the references to this in Manzoni, I Promessi Sposi, ed. Stella/Repossi, pp.868f.). In the novel, the narrator cites Rivola’s Vita di Federico Borromeo and Ripamonti’s Historia patriae as sources. 322  “[Someone who; note D.S.] though one of the first among the great of the city, had established his domicile in the country, on a mountain on the frontier; and who there, entrenched and fortifying his power by crime, disregarded judgments and magistrates, authorities and the sovereign” (p.422). 323  “Per l’aequa potestas quidlibet audendi ho trasportato il suo castello nella Valsassina” (Manzoni to Cesare Cantù, undated, probably 1831/1832; quoted in: Manzoni, I Promessi Sposi, ed. Stella/ Repossi, p.1024). 324  “Prese l’appunto del nome della nostra povera Lucia, e licenziò don Rodrigo, dicendo: ‘tra poco avrete da me l’avviso di quel che dovrete fare’.” (PS, XX, 341) (“He made a note of poor Lucia’s name and dismissed Don Rodrigo, saying: ‘shortly you will hear from me what you are to do.’” p.432) 321


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Milan lies deep between two embankments, and the view of the city only opens up to him because he goes into nature, which has been softened by the rain. And in this the road is exactly like the one on which Lucia is sent by Gertrude to make her the prey of the bravi of the Innominato: “Quella strada era, ed è tutt’ora, affondata, a guisa d’un letto di fiume, tra due alte rive orlate di macchie, che vi forman sopra una specie di volta.” (PS, XX, 345)325 Instead of taking a step out of the riverbed-like street and glimpsing nature, as Renzo does, Lucia has the kidnappers’ carriage waiting for her, into which she is dragged by the Nameless One’s henchmen. Once inside, the narrator asks, “Chi potrà ora descrivere il terrore, l’angoscia di costei, esprimere ciò che passava nel suo animo?” (PS, XX, 346)326 The melodramatic increase in tension327 is entirely in keeping with the Gothic novel. But where Ellena, equally abducted, repeatedly draws strength in the sight of a sublime nature and regains her ability “to act with firmness”,328 Lucia overcomes her fear of death not by ‘natural means’ but in the sacrifice of her sexuality. Manzoni strategically recasts Radcliffe’s shudder poetics, in which nature takes a central role in expanding perceptual abilities. After Ellena is abducted to the convent of San Stefano, she is imprisoned, but from a small tower room she can now and then catch a glimpse of a nature that lets her persevere and provides her, through Manzoni, with ‘rassegnazione’: To Ellena, whose mind was capable of being highly elevated, or sweetly soothed, by scenes of nature, the discovery of this little turret was an important circumstance. Hither she could come, and her soul, refreshed by the views it afforded, would acquire strength to bear her, with equanimity, thro’ the persecutions that might await her. Here, gazing upon the stupendous imagery around her, looking, as it were, beyond the awful veil which obscures the features of the Deity, and conceals Him from the eyes of his creatures, dwelling as with a present God in the midst of his sublime works; with a mind thus elevated, how insignificant would appear to her the transactions, and the sufferings of this world!329

Ella’s sensitive soul, uplifted by the sight of a sublime nature, pierces the terrible veil of divinity; she dwells in nature-religious contemplation of God, leaving earthly “transactions” and “sufferings” behind. Manzoni’s Lucia, on the other hand, does not behold the hidden God in a deistic contemplation of nature. She resorts to other weapons, the rosary and prayer, the point being to translate speechless terror and an inarticulate cry into words. When she receives the old servant commissioned by the Innominato, “e benchè il luogo selvaggio e sconosciuto, e la sicurezza de’ suoi guardiani non le lasciassero concepire speranza di soccorso, apriva non ostante la

 “This road ran, and still runs, like a river-bed between two high embankments full of shrubbery, the branches of which join together at the top to form a sort of vault.” (p.439) 326  “Now who could describe her fright and fear, or express what was going on in her soul?” (p.440) 327  Raimoni/Bottoni speak of a “tipica risorsa della scrittura melodrammatica” (Manzoni, I promessi sposi, p.376). 328  Racliffe, The Italian, p.70. 329  Ibid., p.90f. 325

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bocca per gridare; ma vedendo il Nibbio far gli occhiacci del fazzoletto, ritenne il grido”. (PS, XXI, 353).330 Chapter XXI, which describes the Innominato’s night and Lucia’s night, is dramaturgically structured in such a way that the former’s conversion coincides exactly with Lucia’s ‘voto’. “Ed ecco, appunto sull’albeggiare” (PS, XXI, 367; Herv. D.S.), just as dawn is beginning to break, just as Lucia has fallen asleep, the Innominato hears “uno scampanare a festa lontano” (PS, XXI, 367), a festive ringing of bells from afar, summoning the people of the church for the visit of Cardinal Borromeo of Milan, and now attracting himself as well. Lucia acts that night as a medium of salvation and a mediator of grace to the Innominato, “in atto di chi dispensa grazie e consolazioni” (PS, XXI, 366). This is the first time in the novel that she takes action, speaking words that make a difference and that lead to her release the next day. However, there is talk of two different speech acts-with diametrically opposite effects-that night: Her pleading “‘[…] Dio perdona tante cose, per un’opera di misericordia!’” (PS, XXI, 357; “‘[…] God forgives so much for a work of mercy!’” p.453) haunts the Innominato through the night, a feminine curiosity grips him (a “curiosità da donnicciola,” PS, XXI, 363), and the words end up seeming to him no longer like a plea but like a self-command “con un suono pieno d’autorità” (PS, XXI, 366). Thus they trigger the decisive yes in the Innominato’s conversion process, which, however, as the text emphasizes, already begins before his encounter with Lucia. Twice, however, he is prevented from bringing Lucia into his castle by an imperious no within him: ‘un no imperioso’ (PS, XX, 350), ‘un altro no interno più imperioso del primo’ (PS, XXI, 355; ‘another no! inside him, even more imperious than the first”, p.450), a no twice over, which only becomes a yes, a “suono pieno d’autorità” the third time, with Lucia’s “Dio perdona …”. The outwardly salvific words correspond to Lucia’s vow of chastity, which she recites, huddled in a corner of the castle chamber, in an intermediate state of nightmare and panic-­stricken despair: Si ricordò di quello che aveva di più caro, o che di più caro aveva avuto; giacchè, in quel momento, l’animo suo non poteva sentire altra affezione che di spavento, nè concepire altro desiderio che della liberazione; se ne ricordò, e risolvette subito di farne un sacrifizio. S’alzò, e si mise in ginocchio, e tenendo giunte al petto le mani, dalle quali pendeva la corona, alzò il viso e le pupille al cielo, e disse: “o Vergine santissima! Voi, a cui mi sono raccomandata tante volte, e che tante volte m’avete consolata! Voi che avete patito tanti dolori, e siete ora tanto gloriosa, e avete fatti tanti miracoli per i poveri tribolati; aiutatemi! fatemi uscire da questo pericolo, fatemi tornar salva con mia madre, Madre del Signore; e fo voto a voi di rimaner vergine; rinunzio per sempre a quel mio poveretto, per non esser mai d’altri che vostra.” (PS, XXI, 362)331  “[U]nless the wild and lonely region and the self-assurance of her guards left her no hope of help, she opened her mouth to cry out. When, however, she saw the Nibbio meaningfully lift his handkerchief, she restrained the cry.” (S. 448) 331  “She remembered what she loved best-or rather had loved best, for at that moment her soul could feel no other emotion than fear, no other desire than that of deliverance. She remembered it, and resolved at once to sacrifice it. She rose on her knees, folded her hands before her breast, while she held the rosary between her fingers, raised her eyes to heaven, and said: ‘O Most Holy Virgin! Thou, whom I have so often commanded and whom thou hast so often consoled me, thou who hast suffered so many pains and now art so glorious and hast done so many miracles for the poor afflicted: help me! Save me from this distress, lead me back safe to my mother, O Mother of the Lord, and I vow to thee to remain a virgin, I renounce forever my poor beloved, never to belong to any but thee alone.’” (p.458f.) 330


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Lucia promises to remain a virgin and renounce her love for Renzo. With this self-­sacrifice, she places herself as the greatest obstacle to her marriage to Renzo. It is only in the final version of the novel that the vow of chastity is unmistakably marked as a ‘voto’.332 While the words addressing the innominato transform earthly power into law, Lucia’s ‘voto’ excludes her from such an earthly (marriage) legislation. Because of this vow, her character is repeatedly taken as Manzoni’s mouthpiece and (depending on the reading perspective) as a figural, spiritual or ideological centre. Then, in the scene of the ‘voto’, her function as a figura Christi proves itself, revealing at the same time the figural dimension of marriage in the Promessi sposi: Renzo and Lucia as hypostasis of the mystical union between Christ and his Church. Lucia, in this perspective, is an essentially static figure; from the very beginning, as the bride of Christ (and not of Renzo!), she carries within herself those “valori puri” that are revealed in her vows: “Lucia esprime insomma la dimensione sacerdotale della vita, quella per cui ogni cristiano è sacerdote in quanto sia chiamato a rendere testimonianza del Cristo, sia oralmente sia nei fatti,” writes Enzo Noè Girardi.333 Very similarly, only more succinctly, Salvatore S.Nigro: “Ma se Renzo ha imparato e continua a imparare, nulla ha imparato e nulla può imparare Lucia; per lei la verità sapienzale non è una conquista, è una dote da trasmettere.”334 Giuseppe Fornari goes so far as to promote Lucia’s ‘voto’ as a cultural anthropological model for overcoming social violence. He uses Girard’s scapegoat mechanism to explain the spiral of violence that the Promessi sposi unfolded textbook-like, only to have it abruptly ended by Lucia’s voluntary sacrifice of love.335 All of these readings essentialize the victim in the female figure, whatever function is then attributed to her in detail. This is problematic for two reasons: first, as I have tried to show, Manzoni’s novel focuses on a juridical perspective that centers not on the affirmation of a theory of sacrifice but on a judgment that is supposed to make possible the distinction between ‘true’ and ‘false’ victims. The community that the novel promises, utopian, fairy-tale or novelistic as it may seem, is not to be based on the victim but on an acquittal of the individual, with Jean-Luc Nancy one could say: on a “caractère commun de nos existences”.336 Second, the readings that focus on Lucia’s sacrifice cannot really explain why the novel continues as it does. Padre Cristoforo annuls Lucia’s vows in Chapter XXXVI.But why does the novel stage a juridical speech act that is annulled in a manner that is as formal as it is intimate? If one insists on the centrality of the ‘voto’, one can only make the continuation of the novel’s fiction plausible by means of an interpretive leap. One evades to a lower or higher, but in any case to a different level of figurativity. The ‘voto’ can then make Lucia’s whole story uninteresting, because its meaning is clear anyway (this is the tendency in Nigro). Or one switches from the macro-level of the text to the figurative level and Lucia’s story, for all its  Cf. in more detail Vf., “Europäische Eherechtsfiktionen”.  Girardi, Struttura e personaggi dei Promessi sposi, pp.69 and 70. 334  Nigro, La tabacchiera di don Lisander, p.154. 335  Giuseppe Fornari, “Il voto di Lucia. Desiderio e espiazione nei Promessi sposi”, Nuova corrente 53 (2006), pp.229–264. 336  Jean-Luc Nancy, La Communauté désavouée, Paris: Galilée 2014, p.11. 332 333

3.3  Lucia intheProcess ofSacralization


staticness, acquires a (quasi-minimal) developmental aspect with the solution of the ‘voto’: Lucia must learn that it is not only about herself in this sacrificial process (so Girardi, also Baldi). Or else one explains the ‘voto’, as Fornari does, as a performative that has worked and served its purpose in the novel– especially in the conversion of the Innominato and Lucia’s survival– and can therefore be released again.337 Be that as it may, the ambivalence of Lucia’s strange vow cannot be explained away. The positive foundational violence of the ‘parole’ expressed in the vow is countered by a negative violence that asserts the reversibility of such an ‘effective’ ‘parole’. Lucia’s ‘voto’ is an error presented as a voluntaristic act, a pseudo-conversion and a legally binding sacrifice. “Si ricordò”, she remembers, we are told twice in the passage quoted above, what she holds most dear, her love for Renzo, and decides to sacrifice it, “risolvette subito di farne un sacrifizio”. This sacrifice is elaborated in the intimate formality of prayer: kneeling, with folded hands simultaneously holding the rosary, Lucia addresses the Virgin Mary in prayer: ‘fo voto a voi di rimaner vergine’. Hardly less solemnly (and without any token reference to a supposed source or anonymous author), the narrator describes the consequences of this determined act: Lucia puts the rosary around her neck, “come un’armatura della nuova milizia” (PS, XXI, 362; “as if it were […] an armour of the new militia”, p.459), she becomes calm– “sentì […] una certa tranquillità”– and falls into a deep sleep, “un sonno perfetto e continuo” (PS, XXI, 363). Such psychological, ritual and spiritual resolve is completely absent in Fermo e Lucia. There the scene is entirely dominated by a hysterical “febbre violenta” to which the protagonist virtually succumbs by pronouncing “il voto, o quello che a Lucia parve tale”. Far from falling into a sleep of relief afterwards, she spends the rest of the night “in un letargo febbrile” (FL, II, X, 306). Whereas the early version emphasizes a passionate misdeed and self-exclusion from the marital union, the final version asserts a self-controlled act of sexual sublimation. No matter which prevails, the promised virginity puts Lucia in Manzoni’s typical state of being torn between passions: Her after-the (pseudo) conversion turns out to be a before-the conversion. Daniela Brogi has pointed out that in the final version this state is not only attenuated, but above all deprived of its love-passion connotations.338 Structurally, from the fatal vow onwards, her state differs in nothing from Gertrude’s turmoil as she is tossed back and forth between saying yes and repenting. In the house of the tailor’s family, where she is housed after her liberation, Lucia’s conflicts of conscience begin. These feelings of guilt are interestingly triggered by her “istinto di pulizia e di verecondia” (PS, XXIV, 410; “her need for cleanliness and decency” p.519), on the basis of which she wants to put her disarranged hairstyle in order again. As she pins the loosened braids back in place, her fingers– in place, as it were, of the jewellery that surrounds her head like  Cf. Fornari, “Il voto di Lucia”, p.263: “E affinché tale unione si attui, affinché si compia il matrimonio figurale tra Renzo e Lucia quale segno sensibile di un amore sovrasensibile, occorre che il voto di Lucia venga sciolto, non perché non fosse valido, ma perché ha adempiuto al suo scopo, e ha realizzato se stessa nella rinuncia che Lucia ha realizzato […].”– Inevitably, one wonders why the text then insists so much on the “perché non fosse valido”. 338  Cf. Brogi, Il genere proscritto, pp.95–103. 337


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an aureole on the day of the planned wedding– touch, of all things, the rosary she had hung around her head in Innominato’s castle. And so she is assailed by the agonizing “memoria del voto”: “oh, povera me, cos’ho fatto!” (PS, XXIV, 410; “‘O woe, what have I done!’” p.520) Ma non appena l’ebbe pensate, ne risentì come uno spavento. Le tornarono in mente tutte le circostanze del voto, l’angoscia intollerabile, il non avere una speranza di soccorso, il fervore della preghiera, la pienezza del sentimento con cui la promessa era stata fatta. E dopo avere ottenuta la grazia, pentirsi della promessa, le parve un’ingratitudine sacrilega, una perfidia verso Dio e la Madonna; le parve che una tale infedeltà le attirerebbe nuove e più terribili sventure, in mezzo alle quali non potrebbe più sperare neppur nella preghiera; e s’affrettò di rinnegare quel pentimento momentaneo. (PS, XXIV, 410)339

Lucia is seized by the shudder of regret for her deed and regrets her regretfulness– like Gertrude, of whom it says in Chapter IX: “Si pentiva poi d’essersi pentita, passando così i giorni e i mesi in un’incessante vicenda di sentimenti contrari.” (PS, IX, 160)340 Lucia also repeats her yes to virginity – “rinnovò il voto” (PS, XXIV, 411)– in order to remain master of the mysterium tremendum. The admission of her repentance would seem blasphemous to her: “un’ingratitudine sacrilega, una perfidia verso Dio e la Madonna”. While the narrator of the Promessi sposi draws the reader’s attention to Lucia’s new, exclusive covenant with God, the Lucia of Fermo e Lucia is not yet thinking of wickedness and sacrilege, but– more earthly, focused on Renzo’s desire– of ‘temptation’ and ‘crime’: Lucia non confessava a se stessa d’esserne pentita, mal lo era […]. L’invincibile di tutte le difficoltà, l’amaro di tutte le privazioni, l’inestricabile di tutti gl’impacci le pareva che venisse dal non poter essere di Fermo; con lui tanti inconvenienti sarebbero svaniti, e tutti gli altri sarebbero divenuti tollerabili! ma il pensiero di Fermo era per lei una tentazione, quasi un delitto, e doveva sempre rispingerlo. (FL, III, III, 368)341

Lucia’s conflicts of conscience are not only justified differently here, but also conveyed differently. Whereas the narrator of Promessi sposi presents himself as the exclusively internally focused accomplice of a character who heroically, against all  “But no sooner had she thought these words than she winced in fright. All the circumstances of the vow came back to her: her unbearable anxiety, the absence of any hope of help, the fervour of her prayer, the depth and earnestness of feeling with which she had made the promise. To regret that promise now, after she had received the grace she had asked for, seemed to her a blasphemous ingratitude, a betrayal of God and of Our Lady. It seemed to her that such disloyalty must bring new and still worse misfortunes upon her, in which she could then hope for nothing even from prayer, and so she hastened to recant her momentary regrets.” (p.520) 340  “Afterwards she regretted having regretted it, and so she spent days and months in constant alternation of conflicting feelings.” (p.204) 341  “Lucia did not confess to herself that she regretted it [the vow; note D.S.], but so it was; […] it seemed to her that the insurmountable of all her difficulties, the bitterness of all her privations, the inextricability of all her entanglements, stemmed from not being able to belong to Fermo; with him so many inconveniences would have dissolved and all the others would have become tolerable! But the thought of Fermo represented a temptation to her, almost a crime, and she had always to suppress it.” 339

3.3  Lucia intheProcess ofSacralization


odds, remains faithful to divine law, in Fermo e Lucia, an externally focused narrator distances himself from a Lucia who does not want to admit her earthly desire– perhaps wrongly, perhaps not. The dichotomy between the right and wrong of the ‘voto’ is transferred in the final version from within the character to the relationship between a character who is asserting the right and the reader. In Fermo e Lucia, the narrator explains to the reader directly after this passage that Lucia did not know that her vow could not be valid at all … Precisely this information is withheld in the final version– increasing the tension– until Chapter XXXVI of the novel, in order to incorporate it there as an intrigue-solving plot element in the central scene of the reunion in the Milan military hospital.

The Solution oftheVow, Critical ofLaw In Fermo e Lucia, as stated, the reader is informed of the invalidity of the ‘voto’ by way of advance information from the narrator: La poveretta non era istrutta abbastanza per conoscere che quella promessa fatta in una agitazione febbrile, senza meditazione, quasi senza piena coscienza non era un voto; e che ella già legata con una promessa solenne a Fermo non aveva il diritto di sciogliere senza consenso e senza colpa di lui, un legame già stretto da due volontà libere e concordi; e ignorava anche i mezzi, che la religione la quale consacra i voti dell’uomo, offre per liberarlo dai voti, quando il loro adempimento invece d’essere una occasione di maggior bene, divenga un ostacolo. (FL, III, III, 369)342

The invalidity of Lucia’s supposed vow is explained in strictly canonical terms, and the Corpus Iuris Canonici in force today would hardly assess the case differently.343 Among other things, the object of the vow is that it must be physically and morally feasible and that it must be “non soltanto sia onesto, ma anche migliore dell’opposto, pertanto il voto ha, propriamente parlando, per oggetto un bene migliore (‘votum dicitur esse de bene meliori’).”344 Precisely these two conditions are not met, as is clear from the quotation. Lucia, “la poveretta,” acts without “piena coscienza”; moreover, she is already bound by her betrothal to Fermo, which, unlike her private vow of chastity, is even a solemn, i.e. public, vow (“promessa solenna”).  “The poor woman was not sufficiently educated to know that this promise, which she had made in a feverish excitement, without deliberation, and virtually without full consciousness, was not a vow at all. And that, because she was already bound to Fermo by a solemn promise, she had no right to sever a bond already made by two free and concurring wills, without his consent and without his fault. Nor, further, did she know the means which religion, consecrating man’s vows, offers for releasing him from them, when their fulfilment becomes an obstacle instead of the occasion of a greater good.” 343  This is also true of Gertrude’s history before entering the monastery, in which the admission procedure of religious congregations established at the Tridentine Council is meticulously observed. Cf. the passage commentary by the canon Andrea Drigani, Il mantello della giustizia. Il diritto secondo la Chiesa nei Promessi sposi, Firenze: Libreria Editrice Fiorentina 2011, to which I refer below. 344  Cf. Drigani, “Il mantello della giustizia”, p.39. 342


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Andrea Drigani cites the Thomistic provision as a third doubt according to which vows must address God, while Lucia addresses the Virgin Mary. However, theological opinions differ here, and, according to Drigani, there are also authors who recognize the Virgin and the saints as mediating addressees.345 Even if the private vow were to have effect– the final version of the novel decides in favour of this variant, at least on the point of Lucia’s sanity– there would still be canonical ‘mezzi’ to undo it under certain conditions. Her ‘voto’ could be resolved because it does not constitute a “maggior bene” but an “ostacolo”.346 Incidentally, Lucia’s vow is not to be confused with a monastic vow (‘professione’), nor with a vow promising to enter a monastery. After her ‘voto’, Lucia only wishes to be allowed to return home to her mother and thus, as far away from Renzo as possible, to be able to resist the temptation of love. The novel simply takes up the popular tradition of the votive sacrifice, which the believer usually offers in an emergency situation. Only in Lucia’s case, she reaches too high in her votive offering. Unaware of the possible remedies, she now fights for her psycho-spiritual and canonical ‘survival’ – quite analogous to Renzo, who meanwhile is fleeing from earthly justice.347 She understands her promise, entirely in the Thomistic sense, as a kind of self-command: ‘Votum est promissio Deo facta de aliquo quod sit Deo acceptum’.348 A vow is the promise of a thing accepted by God. The votary commands himself to deliver the thing promised. In Lucia’s case, the self-command becomes a struggle: she must suppress and deny her desire for Renzo in order to maintain the possibility of delivering on her promise. The private vow takes her similarly, yet quite differently, to Renzo, whose name ‘only’ slipped out in Milan– not under the influence of fear, but of alcohol. Lucia’s mistaken vow carries a fatal, sacred and legal weight, while Renzo’s physical and verbal interference in Milanese politics brings only a temporary name change (‘Antonio Rivolta’) and temporary exile. Even when, on his second visit to Milan, he brandishes a knife to keep the mob at bay, his strong and nimble body saves him from the murderous act – this parallel has been pointed out by Enzo N. Girardi: “Lucia, insomma, in quel momento terribile [on the night of her vow; note D.S.], ha pensato solo a se stessa; in questa prospettiva, non ha fatto, a ben pensarci, cosa diversa da quanto ha fatto Renzo minacciando, coltello alla mano, la folla ignorante

 Ibid., p.54.  Cf. c. 1196 of the Codex Iuris Canonici (1983), which regulates the dispensation of private vows (cited in:; 03.03.2016). 347  Readings that explain Lucia’s speech act as merely reasonable, utilitarian bartering actually fall short here. Cf. e.g.: Pasqualino, Andò, Volpe, “Dialogo col. soprannaturale,” p.212: “Anche il piccolo baratto che Lucia tenta con la Madonna è, dopotutto, un ragionevole tentativo.”– An objection to this in Francesco di Ciaccia, La parola e il silenzio. Peste, carestia ed. eros nel romanzo manzoniano, Pisa: Giardini Editori e Stampatori 1987, p.261: “L’esperienza di Lucia non è morale, come alcuni han creduto, sghignazzando sulla scempiaggine del voto e digrigrando i denti sulla solennità del suo scioglimento; l’esperienza di Lucia è teologale, e soltanto apparentemente è casistica spicciola, per la quale alcuni lettori si sono indignati […].” 348  Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, II-II, q. 88, a.2; quoted in: Drigani, Il mantello della giustizia, p.38. 345 346

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ed isterica.”349 Renzo’s ‘natural’ means of struggle are mainly aimed at his own survival, at a subject who dreams of being allowed to write himself; Lucia’s means of struggle is the negation of the body, the sexual renunciation that– more momentously– prevents the parole of marriage. In the Osservazioni sulla morale cattolica, Manzoni defends vows of chastity and asceticism against Sismondi precisely as a weapon against human depravity: Che se l’impudicizia può metter radice ne’ cori, malgrado il voto di verginità, e la gola, malgrado l’assistenze, vorrà dire che tanta è la corruttela dell’uomo, che i mezzi stessi proposti dall’Uomo-Dio non la estirpano totalmente; che sono bensì armi per poter vincere, ma che non dispensano dal combattere: ma chi potrà supporre che ci possano essere de’ mezzi migliori? (OMC, XVI, 177)350

Even if the means proposed by Christ are not sufficient to defeat the wickedness of man, they still remain the best means of struggle. From her very first appearance as a bride, shielding herself from outsiders, Lucia’s ‘combative modesty’ is alluded to: ‘lei s’andava schermendo, con quella modestia un po’ guerriera delle contadine’ (PS, II, 38). This ‘old’ bridal adornment is replaced on the night of her abduction by the rosary, which she places around her neck “come un’armatura della nuova milizia” (PS, XXI, 362). But what exactly happens in Chapter XXXVI of Promessi sposi? And to what extent can one speak of a juridification? By means of a Hegelian-like negation of negation, Padre Cristoforo elevates Lucia’s parole to the potency of a law-setting, instituent power. I skip here the stages of Lucia’s further journey from the tailor’s family in the village (near the Innominato’s castle) to her stay with Don Ferrante and Donna Prassede (both of whom succumb to the plague), until she arrives at the plague hospital, herself ill with the plague. Lucia’s travel radius is smaller than Renzo’s, but what is crucial for the present argument is that Renzo meets lonely and lonely friends (especially the unnamed village friend with whom he is twice a guest), while Lucia encounters two exemplary couples. The tailor and his wife represent the good, simple, and truly charitable couple, while the bourgeois “coppia d’alto affare” (PS, XXV, 433; “genteel couple,” p. 549) in Milan represents the negative caricature of a married couple: Donna Prassede’s mistake consists not only in her attempt to persuade Lucia to enter the convent, but in her general conceit, “di prender per cielo il suo cervello” (PS, XXV, 435; “mistaking her brain for heaven,” p. 552). And Don Ferrante, even in the face of his own death from the plague, believes he is on the verge of scientific proof of its non-existence (PS, XXXVII,

 Girardi, Struttura e personaggi dei Promessi Sposi, p.78.  “For, if ‘unchastity can take root in the heart,’ notwithstanding the vow of virginity, and palatine lust notwithstanding the exercises of abstinence, this says precisely: the corruption of man is so great that even the means proposed by the God-man are not sufficient to extirpate it entirely; these, to be sure, are weapons by which one can conquer, but they do not save the struggle. Who, however, would suppose that there could be better means to this end?” (Trans. Arens, p.267) 349 350


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653f.).351 Donna Prassede’s false religion and Don Ferrante’s false conception of nature thus represent a negative repetition of the constellation of the protagonist-­ couple. In the plague hospital of Milan, Renzo finds Lucia again, who, like him, has been cured of the plague and now nurses plague sufferers. It is significant that Lucia’s plague sickness is mentioned only very briefly (PS, XXXVI, 627), while in Renzo’s case it is accounted for in much greater detail as a physical immunization (PS, XXXIII, 571). This circumstance can be explained by the fact that the existential challenge (terrore), for which the plague stands, does not make her immune, but rather makes her afflicted in the first place. In the plague hospital, she finds herself at the height of her struggle against (or: her trial by) an implacable religion that demands fidelity to the word once given, no matter what the circumstances. Renzo, as already mentioned, first recognizes Lucia by her voice, by her words: “Paura di che?’ diceva quella voce soave” (PS, XXXVI, 627; “What is she afraid of?’ she says softly just now”, p.794). The words imply a double addressing: against the background of Lucia’s as yet unresolved ‘voto’, they are virginal, charitable words addressed to the plague-stricken fellow who is afraid of the storm over the city. At the same time, these words already implicitly address Renzo, exhorting that ‘fiducia in Dio’ which Lucia will highlight at the end of the novel as the quintessence of her story. After a brief reunion, the inevitable confrontational conversation ensues. Desperate, she pleads with her lover, “‘Ma, per amor del cielo, per l’anima vostra, per l’anima mia, non venite più qui, a farmi del male, a … tentarmi. […]’” “‘Per carità, Renzo, per carità, per i vostri poveri morti, finitela, finitela; non mi fate morire … […]’” (PS, XXXVI, 631 and 632).352 She sends him to Padre Cristoforo to explain everything. The latter, however, does not explain anything to Renzo, but returns with him– and a basket in his hand (“con la sporta in braccio”, PS, XXXVI, 635)– to Lucia to get to the bottom of the matter. The narrator insistently points out that the thunderstorm over the plague hospital is now announcing itself more ominously than ever, with thunder and lightning. Padre Cristoforo asks Lucia if she will ‘confide’ in him as before: “‘[…] Siete voi disposta a confidarvi in me, come altre volte?’” (PS, XXXVI, 636). What follows, however, is not a confession and not an admition, but something in between, a strange conversation, an unconfessable confession,353 that becomes the very core of the marriage fiction of the Promessi sposi. It is a formal retraction of something Lucia had promised to hand over, without annulling the speech act of the promise itself. It is necessary to recall here the  On these couples, see Danelon, Né domani, né mai, pp.187–220, and Girardi, Struttura e personaggi dei Promessi Sposi, pp.133–142, who considers the critique of the bourgeois couple variant central to the novel as a whole. 352  “‘But by all the saints, by your soul and mine, come back here no more, stop hurting me, stop … tempting me.’ […]’” “‘For God’s sake, Renzo, for the sake of your poor dead, stop it, stop it! It’s killing me … […]’” (pp.800 and 802). 353  Alessandro Bosco uses this expression for Lucia’s vow (i.e. not for the solution of the same), whereby he sees in Lucia’s sexuality (in need of interpretation) what is not admitted (Bosco, Il romanzo indiscreto, p.89). I would say, on the other hand, that what is at stake (precisely) is not the revelation of a sexuality, but an unacknowledged, sexual communion, revealed in the scene of the resolution of a vow (a scene that does not assume a strategic function in Bosco’s reading). 351

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passage from Fermo e Lucia that is critical of law, where the narrator reflects on the criteria of decision that can be used to determine in which cases a thing exists or has existed legally or only materially: Accade talvolta che dove gli uomini hanno deciso che una cosa non può esser realmente fatta che nei tali e tali modi, la cosa si fa realmente in modi tutti diversi e che non erano stati preveduti. In questo caso, la cosa non vale, anzi non è fatta. E non andate a farvi compatire da un sapiente col volergli dimostrare che la è fatta; egli lo sa quanto voi; ma sa qualche cosa di più, vede nella cosa stessa una distinzione profonda; vede, e vi insegna che la cosa materialmente è fatta, legalmente non è. Dall’altra parte accade pure, che dopo essere stato dagli uomini predetto, deciso, statuito che, dove si trovino i tali e tali caratteri esiste certamente il tal fatto, si sono trovati altri uomini più accorti dei primi (cosa che pare impossibile eppure è vera) i quali hanno saputo far nascere tutti quei caratteri senza fare la cosa stessa. In questo secondo caso bisogna riguardare la cosa come fatta; e darebbe segno di mente ben leggiera e non avvezza a riflettere, o di semplicità rustica affatto colui che, ostinandosi ad esaminare il merito, volesse dimostrare che la cosa non è. (FL, II, II, 169)354

All legal “formalità” have either material or legal abysses. The narrator subsumed Gertrude’s religious vows as a case of a precarious but legal simulation. But what kind of ‘thing’ will Lucia’s rescinded vow have been in the end? The dialogue, which extends over two pages (PS, XXXVI, 636f.), fuses moral-theological, subjective arguments with juridical ones. It amounts to a private-law clarification, whereby at the end– despite all the legal charge of scene– it is left in limbo which (speech) act or acts are actually to be destituted, restituted and/or instituted: Padre Cristoforo first makes sure that Lucia has acted in ignorance of the fact that she was already bound. Yes, it is so, Lucia confirms her ignorance. Actually, he could solve the whole problem at this point and simply tell Lucia the happy news that her vows are void because she has already pledged her “volontà” to Renzo. But Padre Cristoforo asks further: he wants to know if the vow has become public in any way: “‘[…] Ma ditemi; non vi siete mai consigliata con nessuno su questa cosa?’” (PS, XXXVI, 636; “‘[…] But tell me: have you never consulted anyone about this matter?’” p.806) No, Lucia has not confided in anyone else since. Further, the question is whether the vow is the only reason that prevents her from keeping the promise of betrothal made to Renzo. Yes, is the answer here, combined with a fierce blush that rises to her face (“il suo viso […] fiorì tutt’a un tratto del più vivo rossore”, PS,  Cf. already above Sect. 3.3: Lucia in the process of sacralization (“Between act and language. On the question of guilt”): “Sometimes it happens that where men have determined that a thing can really be done only in one way or another, the thing is in fact done in a quite different way that was not intended at all. In that case, the thing does not apply, indeed, was not done at all. You need not then have a scholar pity you by trying to persuade him that the thing was made after all, for he knows this as well as you. But he knows more; he sees a profound difference in the thing; he sees and instructs you that the thing has been made materially, but legally it has not been made. On the other hand, it happens, on the other hand, that where men have foreseen, fixed, statued certain properties for the real existence of a thing, there are found other men, even cleverer than the first (which seems impossible, but is true), who have succeeded in producing all these properties without yet making the thing itself. In this second case, the thing must be considered as made. And to him who would persist in examining it, and in showing that the thing is not at all, would be imputed frivolity, a want of reflection, if not a peasant simplicity.” (Own translation) 354


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XXXVI, 636). With this, Cristoforo obviously knows enough and he proposes the release from the vow, which once again– and for the last time– plunges Lucia into a terrore: she has given the promise (“la promessa”) to the Virgin with all her heart (“proprio di cuore”) and a retraction would be a sin (“peccato”) after all? To which Padre Cristoforo responds by ‘acting’: “Peccato, figliuola?” disse il padre: “peccato il ricorrere alla Chiesa, e chiedere al suo ministro che faccia uso dell’autorità che ha ricevuto da essa, e che essa ha ricevuta da Dio? Io ho veduto in che maniera voi due siete stati condotti ad unirvi; e, certo, se mai m’è parso che due fossero uniti da Dio, voi altri eravate quelli: ora non vedo perchè Dio v’abbia a voler separati. E lo benedico che m’abbia dato, indegno come sono, il potere di parlare in suo nome, e di rendervi la vostra parola. E se voi mi chiedete ch’io vi dichiari sciolta da codesto voto, io non esiterò a farlo; e desidero anzi che me lo chiediate.”

“Allora …! allora …! lo chiedo”; disse Lucia, con un volto non turbato più che di pudore. Il frate chiamò con un cenno il giovine, il quale se ne stava nel cantuccio il più lontano, guardando (giacchè non poteva far altro) fisso fisso al dialogo in cui era tanto interessato; e, quando quello fu lì, disse, a voce più alta, a Lucia: “con l’autorità che ho dalla Chiesa, vi dichiaro sciolta dal voto di verginità, annullando ciò che ci potè essere d’inconsiderato, e liberandovi da ogni obbligazione che poteste averne contratta”. (PS, XXXVI, 637)355

The most irritating thing about this passage is that the annulment of the vow is staged as a gift. Padre Cristoforo resolves Lucia’s state of passionate conflict by ‘giving her back her word’: “rendervi la vostra parola”.356 The speech act of the vow of virginity is not annulled, but transformed. Padre Cristoforo thus brings Lucia’s ‘formalità’ into the fragile balance between a legal and material facticity. Andrea Drigani cites the canonical distinction between dubium iuris and dubium facti for

 “‘Sin, my daughter?’ said the padre. ‘Sin to turn to the Church, and ask her minister to make use of the authority which he has received from her, and which she has received from God? I have seen you two brought together, and truly if ever I had the impression that two people were united by God, it was with you. Therefore I cannot see that God would now want you to be separated again. And I praise him for having given me, unworthy as I am, the power to speak in his name and to give you back your word. And if you ask me to release you from this vow, I will not hesitate to do it, yea, I wish you would ask me to do it.’ ‘Well then … well then … I’ll ask you to do it,’ Lucia said with an expression now confused only by shame. The Father beckoned to Renzo, who was standing in the farthest corner, so that from there, as an attentive observer (he could play no other role), he could follow the dialogue that meant so much to him; and when the young man had joined him, the old man spoke to Lucia with a raised voice: ‘By virtue of the authority which the Church has given me, I absolve you from the vow of virginity, annulling whatever impropriety may have been in it, and releasing you from any obligation thereby contracted.’” (p.807f.) 356  While the ‘solution words’ “vi dichiaro sciolto dal voto di verginità …” are almost identical in Fermo e Lucia and I Promessi Sposi, this phrase only exists in the final version, as does the “desidero anzi che me lo chiediate”. 355

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such cases in which a fluctuatio mentis inter opposita is to be judged, but in his commentary he does not specify what kind of error or errors Padre Cristoforo is now eliminating in the concrete case.357 At the end he explains the solution of the vow with the fact that under Boniface VIII in the thirteenth century it had been determined that only solemn vows also entail juridical obligations anyway. Padre Cristoforo’s act would thus have had no legal, but only moral-theological relevance: In particular, he argues, parish priests in charitable ministry are vested with the ecclesiastical authority to dissolve private vows for legitimate reasons. Francesco di Ciaccia is different: he sees juridical implications of the moral theological and points to an existential necessity of the vow for Lucia: “Per Lucia, infatti, rinnegare un atto ‘sincero’ equivale a non poterne porre un altro, in questo caso l’atto elicito di amore.” Padre Cristoforo solves this aporia, he says, not by declaring the speech act null and void, but only its content: “Perciò, egli conferma la validità coscienziale dell’atto del voto: non toglie nulla ad esso: mal o distingue dal suo contenuto: è l’oggetto – nella fattispecie, la ‘verginità’ intenzionata – ad esser posto in discussione.”358 With Di Ciaccia it is probably to be agreed that Padre Cristoforo does indeed remove a dubium iuris. He does not declare the vow invalid, but the obligations that flow from it: “vi dichiaro sciolta del voto di verginità, annullando ciò che ci potè essere d’inconsiderato, e liberandovi da ogni obbligazione che poteste averne contratta.” However, I believe that what is at stake here is less a subjective existentiality of Lucia than the existentiality of the (love) couple as a founding figure for the community. Padre Cristoforo does not restitute Lucia’s will (“volontà”), according to which she wants to give herself to Renzo, but rather her feminine word of wanting to take Renzo. If it were primarily about the restitution of an ‘absolute sincerity’ (“sincerità”) of Lucia, which Di Ciaccia assumes, Renzo’s presence in this scene would be dysfunctional and voyeuristic. The conversation would have to take place in private. In fact, however, the dramaturgy of the scene corresponds to a cryptically displaced and one-sided marriage scene, which, as we know, consists of three acts: The priest, minister of the ceremony, inquires of the spouse’s marriage consensus. The latter responds by declaring her marriage consensus, and after the spouse has also been asked the same, the priest, as a qualified witness, in the third act declares the couple a sacral and legal union. Quite analogously, in the present conversation, Padre Cristoforo invites Lucia to ask to be released from her ‘voto’. Lucia stammers in her replication, but factually she brings forth what is asked. And in the final step, the Father performs her release from the duties of the vow. The analogy is exposed in that Cristoforo, before executing the dissolution, now beckons Renzo, who has been standing in a corner all along, and turns Lucia’s one-sided address into a double one to the couple. Through the negation of the obligation to virginity, “vi dichiaro sciolta del voto di verginità,” the affirmation of the marriage covenant according to Tridentine precepts thus rings

357 358

 Drigani, Il mantello della giustizia, p.66.  Di Ciaccia, La parola e il silenzio, p.266.


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through: “Ego vos in matrimonium coniungo, in nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti”.359 This negative-legal part of the scene is, as it were, sacramentally sealed by Padre Cristoforo’s subsequent address to the couple. As a personal legacy, he hands Lucia the small wooden box with the “pane del perdono” that he once received from the brother of the man he killed as a sign of reconciliation. The narrator of the novel stages a poetic transfer of the priestly-eucharistic and communitarian function of the priest to the couple, who found a new body of community. “qui dentro c’è il resto di quel pane … il primo che ho chiesto per carità; quel pane, di cui avete sentito parlare! Lo lascio a voi altri: serbatelo; fatelo vedere ai vostri figliuoli. Verranno in un tristo mondo, e in tristi tempi, in mezzo a’ superbi e a’ provocatori: dite loro che perdonino sempre, sempre! Tutto, tutto! e che preghino, anche loro, per il povero frate!” (PS, XXXVI, 638)360

In Fermo e Lucia, as mentioned above, it is Renzo who, having sworn forgiveness in the face of the plague-stricken Don Rodrigo, receives Padre Cristoforo’s ‘relic’. In the final version, it is Lucia who receives the bread, after her parola has been given justice: “E porse la scatola a Lucia, che la prese con rispetto, come si farebbe d’una reliquia.” (PS, XXXVI, 638 f.)361 It is only consistent to stage the reunion of the couple as one of the last acts of Padre Cristoforo, who is ill with the plague. His devotion to the community is justified only by the fact that he once killed a human being, and his whole desire is aimed at interrupting this violence, violence of a church corpus which is only apparently innocent. His bread of forgiveness is “il primo che ho chiesto per carità”; Renzo and Lucia, on the other hand, are to establish a community that draws from a passionate source of love from the beginning. The negated vow substitutes for the couple’s founding speech act. Chapter XXXVI and the third-last chapter of the novel end with this central turn.

Communauté Inavouable The marriage as a turning point, with which a new, non-violent community body is to be established, corresponds to that ‘entirely poetic’ act of the author that Manzoni described in Del romanzo storico as a way out of a history that no longer has any heroic material to offer: ‘Nel romanzo storico, il soggetto principale è tutto

 Cf. above Sect. 2.1: Secularization of marriage? Sacramentality and jurisdiction (“Visibility or: Pauline mysterium”). 360  “‘In here is the remainder of that bread … of the first that I once asked for as alms, you will have heard of it. I leave it to you. Keep it and show it to your children. They will come into a sad world and sad times, in the midst of the arrogant and the rebellious. Tell them to forgive always, always, and all, all! And that they too should pray for the poor Father.’” (p.809) 361  “He handed the box to Lucia, who received it reverently, as if it were a relic.” (p.809) 359

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dell’autore, tutto poetico, perchè meramente verosimile’.362 The body of community instituted by poetic-fictional means reverses the usual, Pauline figurality of the married couple. Here, the man is not the head and the woman the body of the conjugally united community body. She does not subordinate herself while the task of loving falls to him. But rather the other way around: Lucia would be the head, addressee and guardian of this marriage cult. She loves in a feminine-masculine way like Christ, while Renzo subordinates himself in a masculine-feminine, bodily way to this head. This is a theologically as well as juridico-philosophically unheard-of role reversal. So, for example, in Antonio Rosmini’s Del bene del matrimonio cristiano (1847), we also find the traditional metaphor of the man as head of the private ‘little marriage church’: quei due divenuti un solo pel matrimonio possono di più prestare congiuntamente un solo culto a Dio; il quale conviene principalmente che sia prestato dall’uomo, siccome capo, insieme colla sua sposa, siccome corpo di lui.363

Now Manzoni does not depict such a matriarchal role-reversed corpus mysticum, “culto cristiano a Dio,” in his novel; he confines himself to promising it. Last but not least, the inversion echoes once again at the end in Renzo and Lucia’s children: First, a girl is born and “potete credere” (PS XXXVIII, 672; “one can be sure,” p.853) that she was named Maria. While the product of the role-reversed couple’s body is ironized, its becoming, its fictional formation, marks a novelistic écriture that confronts its differential character. Just as Maurice Blanchot speaks of an unconstitutable community that can only be described and owned in its lack,364 the Promessi sposi tell a paradoxical story of the couple as a story of separation and division. What remains unconceivable in this romance novel is the reason, the right, the binding nature of the community portrayed. It is no coincidence that the novel does not depict the marriage as a solemn exchange of the couple’s consensus. What remains is a promise on the precipice of separation. In her replication of Renzo’s negative sum of education, Lucia ironically voices this abysmal nature of the promise. If the lesson to be drawn from her story were at stake, would it not lie in “‘che il mio sproposito sia stato quello di volervi bene, e di promettermi a voi […]’” (PS, XXXVIII, 673)?365 Marriage is not meant to establish a new law, nor does it constitute a guarantee of a successful community. This becomes clear at the latest when

 Manzoni, Del romanzo storico, p.364. (“In the historical novel the main subject is entirely of the author, entirely poetic, because merely probable.” Trans. Arens, p.446) 363  Antonio Rosmini, “Del bene del Matrimonio cristiano” (1847); in id., Del matrimonio, ed. Remo Bessero Belti (= Opere di Antonio Rosmini, vol. 30), Roma: Città Nuova Editrice 1977, pp.339–353; here: p.348. (“[T]he two, made one by marriage, can serve God with a single worship; it being essential that this service be rendered by the man, as it were head, together with his bride, who is as it were his body.” Own translation) 364  Maurice Blanchot, La communauté inavouable, Paris: Minuit 1983– Blanchot also unfolds such a negative community in the figure of the impossible, intimate two-way relationship of man and woman. 365  “‘[T]hat my mistake would have been to have loved you and promised myself to you.’” (p.854) 362


3  Manzoni: Law andNovel

the narrator, in describing the plague of Milan in Chapter XXXII, quotes Ripamonti, who describes the disastrous disruption of the community in the plague times: Non del vicino soltanto si prendeva ombra, dell’amico, dell’ospite; ma que’ nomi, que’ vincoli dell’umana carità, marito e moglie, padre e figlio, fratello e fratello, eran di terrore: e, cosa orribile e indegna a dirsi! la mensa domestica, il letto nuziale, si temevano, come agguati, come nascondigli di venefizio. (PS, XXXII, 557)366

When plague and misfortune rage, even the “letto nuziale” becomes a deadly trap. And it is precisely such times that Padre Cristoforo famously prophesies for the children of the bride and groom: “[v]erranno in un tristo mondo, e in tristi tempi, in mezzo a’ superbi e a’ provocatori”. This pessimism cannot be shaken. In the Promessi sposi there is no society and no people (popolo), no functioning institutions, neither families, corporations nor congregations. Only twice in the whole novel does the word società occur– and that in the novel of an author who derives his ‘education’ authoritatively from the ‘sociabilité’ of French Enlightenment society. In the first chapter, we are told by Don Abbondio that he had learned from an early age to move in society like a clay vessel (‘un vaso di terra cotta’) among many iron vessels (‘molti vasi di ferro’) (PS, I, 19). The novel begins with, and ends with, the fundamental antagonism of oppressor and oppressed: Renzo and Lucia’s village is near Lecco, where a Spanish garrison is stationed, “che insegnavan la modestia alle fanciulle e alle donne del paese” (PS, I, 8; “who taught modesty to the girls and women of the place,” p.14). And in the end the two end up in Bergamo exile, where those who have moved there from Milan are called only ‘baggiani’ (‘drips’) and where Renzo and Lucia leave the first village straight away because the villagers are disappointed by Lucia’s supposed beauty. Exile does not bring a new home, but only a new exile, where equality and justice again prove to be only a dream. This is best illustrated by the Marchese, who makes his castle available for the wedding feast of the ‘Sposi’, but then withdraws himself to a separate room for the banquet with Don Abbondio. Humility he has, the narrator explains, “quanta ne bisognava per mettersi al di sotto di quella buona gente, ma non per istar loro in pari” (PS, XXXVIII, 667; “as much […] as was necessary to place himself among those good people, but not so much as to place himself on a par with them”, p.847). The decision to elevate the lovers to the central figure for the novel of community does not imply communion, the merging of the individuals into a whole, but– and this seems decisive to me– a right and a necessity to bring the individuals, who are not the same, into relationship with one another. In this postulate of a relationship of individuals and of the sexes as the right of the novel and the right of the couple (not: of the nation), Manzoni’s novel takes a special path in the history of the European novel. It is important to note that it is not about the attribution and fixation of gender roles. In Fermo e Lucia there is a revealing passage on this, where it says:  “Not only the neighbor, the friend, the guest was suspected, even the most familiar names, the closest bonds of human love, husband and wife, father and son, brother and brother, instilled terror. And– ghastly and shameful to utter it!– the domestic table, the conjugal bed, were feared like an ambush, like a nest of poisoners.” (p.707) 366

3.3  Lucia intheProcess ofSacralization


“tutte queste quistioni di paragone tra l’un sesso e l’altro, non saranno mai messe in chiaro, e nè pure ben poste fin che gli uomini soli ne tratteranno ex professo negli scritti: giacchè essi peccano tutti verso le donne o di galanteria adulatoria, o di ostilità grossolana” (FL, II, IV, 198).367 In order to avoid false praise and false censure from men, false attributions, it is rather a matter of writing with another sex in which one’s own might find itself. As long as the couple is the target of the novel, the foundational power of community can be sublimated in a gender swap. In my reading of the novel, I have attempted to show how the overcoming of the obstacles to marriage takes place in an exact symmetry and analogization of the adversaries. In a sense, I promessi sposi write the novel of community as the novel of a gender exchange. Relationality in this way becomes both an individual and a collective matter. What is ontologized here is not the couple, but the relationality that emerges in its figuralization. In contact with their counterparts, both Renzo and Lucia ‘sacrifice’ their ‘gender’. Renzo becomes a ‘woman’ who surrenders to her nature; Lucia a ‘man’ who rises above his nature. It is in the gendered difference performed by the split narrator in Renzo and Lucia that the couple poetics of the novel unfolds, producing not a body of community but a body of text. The process of pair-formation takes the place of law and community and legitimizes the novel. After its coming together, there is – except for the novel – really nothing. There is no new legal form– neither of marriage nor of the state– and perhaps not even the couple objectifying itself in the family any more. Goethe’s literary experiments with marriage also sound out political relations of power and domination, as will be explored next. Here, too, the issue is how to deal with historical and fictional foundational power. While I promessi sposi seek the answer in an unconceivable novel, Goethe’s texts experiment with different answers, which at the same time present themselves in different ‘genres’. In the process, the attempts at form culminate in a novel (Elective Affinities) that asserts a right of its own and which, in a doubled pair relationship, relies less on a balancing of literary and legal procedures than on their intensification.

 “All these questions raised by the comparison of the two sexes will never be settled, or even set right, so long as men treat them only formally in their writings. For they all make the mistake of displaying either flattering gallantry or clumsy hostility towards women.”(Own translation) 367


Between Märchen andNovel: Goethe’s Marriage Experiments

A penetrating advocate in a just cause, a penetrating gender mathematician before the starry sky, are both godlike. (Goethe, “Zur Naturwissenschaft,” WA II, 11 (1893), p.138; quoted in Eugen Wohlhaupter, Dichterfürsten, vol. 1, Tübingen: Mohr 1953, p.173.)

Unlike Rousseau and Manzoni, no uniform concept of marriage can be gleaned from Goethe’s texts, however contradictory, but instead only a development of the concept. Goethe experiments with marriage in order to deal implicitly, ‘symbolically’ with the state-political events of the Revolution. Texts such as the Unterhaltungen deutscher Ausgewanderten (1795), Herrmann und Dorothea (1797), and Die Wahlverwandtschaften (Elected Affinities, 1809) “transpose political events into manageable historical miniatures in which erotic passions are meant to mirror the ‘forces of nature’ erupting in the Revolution, and in which vows of renunciation and marriage covenants are conceived as countervailing the revolutionary ‘force of nature.’”1 Goethe also stylized his own marriage covenant, not unlike Rousseau’s marriage to his maid, into such a covenant of renunciation. He marries Christiane Vulpius after sixteen years of living together out of wedlock and five days after his princely home on Weimar’s Frauenplan is captured by French Revolutionary troops. The couple is married on 19th October 1806in the sacristy of Weimar’s Jakobskirche by the chief consistorial councilor and court preacher  “transponieren das politische Geschehen in überschaubare Historienminiaturen, in denen erotische Leidenschaften die in der Revolution ausbrechenden ‘Naturkräfte’ spiegeln sollen und in denen Entsagungsschwüre und Ehebünde als Gegengewalt zur revolutionären ‘Naturgewalt’ konzipiert sind.” Nils Reschke, “Zeit der Umwendung”. Lektüren der Revolution in Goethes Roman Die Wahlverwandtschaften, Freiburg: Rombach 2006, p.10. 1

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer-Verlag GmbH, DE, part of Springer Nature 2022 D. Stöferle, Marriage as a National Fiction,



4 Between Märchen andNovel: Goethe’s Marriage Experiments

Günther, Herder’s successor, with Carl August’s special permission. Goethe reports to his friend Karl Ludwig von Knebel that he had the date of the Battle of Jena-­ Auerstedt, 14th October 1806, engraved on the wedding rings. He backdates the marriage and, much like his epic Herrmann, stages it as a political defensive action. Whereas in the 1790s, in a letter to Schiller, he had still portrayed his marriage without a marriage certificate as a revolutionary liberation: “Heute erlebe ich auch eine eigne Epoche, mein Ehstand ist eben 8 Jahre und die französische Revolution 7 Jahre alt” (“Today I am also experiencing an epoch of my own, my marital status is just 8 years old and the French Revolution 7 years old”).2 The court poet conceals the fact that the formal entry into the state of marriage also has to do with the preservation of vested rights and the hope of finally having the ducal house on the Frauenplan signed over to him.3 He also fails to mention that he may have wanted to take advantage of a supposedly last opportunity to marry under sovereign– and not Napoleonic– legislation. The biographical epic is supplemented by an anecdote, apparently not historically verifiable, according to which Christiane blurs entirely with Goethe’s Dorothea: The wife had ‘saved the poet’s life’ on the night of the raid, just as the maid Dorothea had fought off war marauders with her sabre.4 Given the tangible, private-law implications of Goethe’s marriage, it seems incomprehensible to me that it is still sometimes presented as an ‘achievement of civil liberties’ that is supposed to have become possible with the entry of the French.5 The figure of ‘renunciation’– the ‘yes-as-no’– developed above all in Unterhaltungen deutscher Augewanderten is not only an affect-political compensation program, but also an armament program, even if it is designed as critically as it is questioned by the texts. The discourse on marriage law in the narrower sense does not actually play a role until Die Wahlverwandtschaften (1809), but there its role is all-important. Above all, subtleties of the divorce law of the time are of central importance here. Overall, it can be said that Goethe experiments with the allegorical-political potential of marriage by allowing marriage law to function as a modality of variable and  Goethe to Schiller on 13 July 1796; quoted in: Reschke, “Zeit der Umwendung”, p.19.  Cf. in detail Peter J. Swartz, After Jena. Goethe’s Elective Affinities and the End of the Old Regime, Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press 2010 (esp. the second chapter: “Why Did Goethe Marry When He Did?”, pp.40–51). 4  See Sigrid Damm, Christiane und Goethe. Eine Recherche, Frankfurt a. M./Leipzig: Insel 1998, pp.327–343. The life-saving myth again taken up as a matter of course and without reflection in: Rüdiger Safranski, Goethe. Kunstwerk des Lebens. Biographie, Munich: Hanser 2013, p.476: “In this situation, when the soldateska were literally closing in on him (Goethe), Christiane showed herself to be particularly capable and quick-witted. She raised a great clamor and got some handy people who had taken refuge in Goethe’s house to force the drunken and armed fellows out of Goethe’s bedchamber.” 5  For example, in Gerhard Müller, “‘Alles eigentlich gemeinsam Gute muss durch das unumschränkte Majestätsrecht gefördert werden’– Gesellschaftlicher Umbruch und Reformpolitik als zeithistorischer Hintergrund des Romans Die Wahlverwandtschaften”, in: Helmut Hühn (ed.), Goethes “Wahlverwandtschaften”. Werk und Forschung, Berlin/New York: De Gruyter 2010, pp.349–365; here: p.352. 2 3

4.1  From the Marriage Novellas of the Ausgewanderten to the Utopia…


dynamic poetological self-reference. Goethe practices, more succinctly, marriage as a binding and divorcing art. At the same time, a development in terms of genre emerges in the chronology of the treatment of the theme: If the experiments begin with the small form of the novella– a genre from the Romance area with close links to law– they move via the hybrid form of the epic to the large form of the novel. In a similar and yet quite different way to Manzoni, Goethe thus arrives at a modern novel via marriage, which asserts a right of its own. Whereas in Manzoni’s novel it is obstacles to marriage that stand in the way of the formation of a couple and must be overcome, in Goethe’s novel Wahlverwandtschaften, it is obstacles to divorce which permanently block the formation of a couple.

4.1 From theMarriage Novellas oftheAusgewanderten totheUtopia ofDomination Revolutionary Passions andTroubled Marriages Goethe’s hermetic Märchen, which concludes the Unterhaltungen deutscher Ausgewanderten (1795), ends with the establishment of a kingship attributed to “die Kraft der Liebe” (“the power of love”).6 With it, not only are the forces of nature tamed, but also the marriages existing under it are renewed, as the old man with the lamp – miraculously rejuvenated and happily embracing his equally transformed wife– states: “von heute an ist keine Ehe gültig, die nicht aufs neue geschlossen wird” (“from today on, no marriage is valid that is not concluded anew”) (UA, 1112). Schiller’s Horen, to which Goethe contributes his collection of novellas, is famously marked by the unleashed revolution. The journal is named after the daughters of Zeus, Eunomia, Dike and Eirene, the goddesses of order, law and peace.7 The political crisis and social disorder are to be dealt with by excluding daily political topicality and by aesthetic education. Schiller wants, he writes in the invitation and announcement of the Horen, “alles verbieten, was sich auf Staatsreligion und politische Verfassung bezieht” (“to ban everything that refers to state religion and political constitution”).8 Goethe responds to this with the genre experiment of the novella, in which what is to be excluded is included narratively and, in the end,

 Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Unterhaltungen deutscher Ausgewanderten, in: Ders, Sämtliche Werke. Briefe, Tagebücher und Gespräche, vol. 9: Wilhelm Meisters theatralische Sendung. Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre. Unterhaltungen deutscher Ausgewanderten, ed. Wilhelm Voßkamp and Herbert Jaumann, Frankfurt a. M.: Deutscher Klassiker Verlag 1992, pp.993–1119; here: p.1111. Hereafter referred to with the abbreviation UA and page reference directly in the text. 7  Cf. Sigrid Bauschinger, “Unterhaltungen deutscher Ausgewanderten”, in: Paul Michael Lützeler, James E. McLeod (eds.), Goethes Erzählwerk. Interpretations, Stuttgart: Reclam 1985, pp.134–167; here: p.135. 8  Schiller, “Ankündigung”, in: Schillers Werke, vol. 4: Schriften, Frankfurt a. M.: Insel 1966, p.135; quoted in: Bauschinger, “Unterhaltungen deutscher Ausgewanderten”, p.136. 6


4 Between Märchen andNovel: Goethe’s Marriage Experiments

‘fabulously’.9 In the “Donner der Kanonen” (“thunder of the cannons”) (UA, 1000), in the noises of the ghosts and the famous desk explosion reported in the tales, the unheard manifests itself literally and loudly at both narrative and frame levels. Etymologically, the generic term novella possibly refers less to the ‘little novelty’ from the Old Provençal novela and diminutive to nova than to the novellae, which in the Iustinian Corpus Iuris Civilis denoted those new individual laws that gradually supplemented the codified, imperial legislation (Institutiones, Digestes and Codex Iustinianus).10 In a comparison of Goethe’s Unterhaltungen with Boccaccio’s Decameron, Chenxi Tang argues that the individual novellas are linked by a critique of law, directed in particular against a law of nations (ius gentium) that had been understood by the proponents of the revolution as the law of war.11 According to Tang, Goethe, unlike Hobbes, favoured “a model of lawful order and sociability beyond sovereign authority”,12 at the centre of which stood the renunciation of individual freedom (‘renunciation’). This is to be agreed with in principle, but it should be added that the critique of naturalized international law has not only an aestheticmoral twist, but has a legal U-turn itself. As the novellas revolve around the figure of marriage, the problem of state and international law becomes one of civil law, whereby the reformability of the marriage bond (vinculum matrimonii) is brought into play. The revolution, the frame narrative, the six narrated novellas, as well as Märchen as the seventh narrative, which, as it were, explodes the novella, stand in a tricky network of relationships that allows politics and the individual, the general and the particular, the real and the imaginary to interplay again and again. Just as the threat to the commonwealth is repeated at the level of the (noble) family in the discussions of the small society that retreats to the estate on the right bank of the Rhine before the revolutionary troops, so the stories reflect this threat in the motifs of ghosts, passions and renunciation. The instability of power relations also characterizes the small, fatherless oikos in exile, which the Baroness von C.

 On the success or failure of this narrative therapy program and on its relationship to Schiller’s specifications, see the commentary by Voßkamp/Jaumann in: Goethe, Wilhelm Meisters theatralische Sendung. Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre. Unterhaltungen deutscher Ausgewanderten, ed. this, pp.1555–1557. Cornelia Zumbusch has read Goethe’s Ausgewanderten as a model of immunization based on the calculation of a deliberate inclusion of the external threat (Cornelia Zumbusch, Die Immunität der Klassik, Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp 2014 (1 2011), pp.300–319). 10  Cf. Helmut J.Jacobs, “novella, nouvelle, novela– Genese, Dilemma und Möglichkeiten einer Begriffsgeschichte der romanischen Kurznarrativik”, in: Christoph Strosetzki (ed.), Literaturwissenschaft als Begriffsgeschichte, Hamburg: Meiner 2010, pp.145–160; here: p.152. On the basis of the early, Italian novella collection Novellino, he demonstrates that the “autonomization process leading from the Latin exemplum to the vernacular novella is closely connected, in terms of content, function, and the genre term novella itself, with the rediscovery of Roman law in the Middle Ages and in the institutionalization of jurisprudence” (p.150). 11  Chenxi Tang, “The Transformation of the Law of Nations and the Reinvention of the Novella: Legal History and Literary Innovation from Boccaccio’s Decameron to Goethe’s Unterhaltungen deutscher Ausgewanderten,” Goethe Yearbook 19 (2012), 67–92. 12  Ibid., p.81. 9

4.1  From the Marriage Novellas of the Ausgewanderten to the Utopia…


provisionally rules as ‘treffliche Hausmutter’ and ‘Führerin’.13 Its members are the daughter Luise, who has to fear for her bridegroom who is fighting in the allied army, the elder son Friedrich, the revolutionary-minded cousin Karl as well as, besides chamber servants and valets, the son Friedrich’s courtier and the Abbé as a family friend. When the family of the Privy Councillor von S. visits, an éclat ensues: after a heated argument between the impetuous Karl and the Privy Councillor, who defends the ‘old system’, the latter departs together with his wife and daughter. The Baroness– herself inflamed with passion– reacts with a kind of emergency decree to what she sees as the fundamentally male problem of destructive passion. She forbids the controversial communication of the circle in favor of an emotionally subdued conviviality in which only that may be said “was der andere schon denkt” (“which the other already thinks”) (UA, 1007): Laßt alle diese Unterhaltungen, die sich sonst so freiwillig darboten, durch eine Verabredung, durch Vorsatz, durch ein Gesetz wieder bei uns eintreten, bietet alle eure Kräfte auf lehrreich, nützlich und besonders gesellig zu sein, und das alles werden wir– und noch weit mehr als jetzt, benötigt sein, wenn auch alles völlig drunter oder drüber gehen sollte. Kinder versprecht mir das.14 (UA, 1010)

But it is the Abbé– interestingly enough, the spiritual authority of the incomplete family– who transforms the Baroness’s commandment of sociability into a ‘ghostly’ narrative programme, reformulating the law to exclude affects into a commandment to talk about sentiments. In the name of the novella, legal and literary novella, the Abbé relies on a cathartic aesthetics of effect, using (“Privatgeschichten”) (“private stories”) to render the contingency and disorder of “Weltbegebenheiten” (“world events”) (UA, 1013) controllable. All the stories are about the “Empfindungen” (“sensations”)– as opposed to the (marriage) laws, one might add– “wodurch Männer und Frauen verbunden oder entzweiet, glücklich oder unglücklich gemacht, öfters aber verwirrt als aufgeklärt warden” (“by which men and women are united or divided, made happy or unhappy, but more often confused than enlightened”) (UA, 1014). Either the passions prevent a marriage from taking place, or they ‘confuse’ an existing marriage (through adultery), or they lead to legally suspect marital relationships through that leitmotif-like ‘renunciation’ which is also imposed on the characters of the frame narrative in the commandment of self-controlled sociability.  Clemens Pornschlegel, Der literarische Souverän. He deduces from this (with reference to Friedrich Kittler) the connection between the “maternal (or nuclear) family regime” and poetry, which takes the place of the old father of the house. In doing so, however, he overlooks the authority of the abbé and the fact that the baroness, as a widow, does not assume the private (domestic) mother function. 14  Let all these entertainments, which otherwise presented themselves so freely, re-enter with us by appointment, by resolution, by law, offer up all your powers to be instructive, useful, and especially sociable, and all this we shall be-and far more than now, be required, though all should go wholly under or over. Children promise me this. 13


4 Between Märchen andNovel: Goethe’s Marriage Experiments

In the first story, the Neapolitan singer Antonelli is looking for a boyfriend who, unlike a lover, would not demand complete “Aufopferung” (“sacrifice”) (UA, 1020) from her. To the Genoese bourgeois she meets, she makes a proposal to that effect, but the narrator, the abbé, immediately discredits it as improbable: “Nur leider überlegt man bei Bedingungen die man eingeht, nicht immer, ob sie möglich sind” (“Only, unfortunately, when one enters into conditions, one does not always consider whether they are possible.”) (UA, 1019) The Genoese turns out to be not only the jealous lover Antonelli did not want, but also so persistent that even after his death he haunts the singer with a ghostly, nightly recurring voice. The Abbé interprets this as evidence “daß man auch jenseit des Grabes Wort halten könne” (“that one could keep one’s word even beyond the grave”) (UA, 1028). The couple’s permanent union was impossible (or spectral), either because the singer’s ‘private contract’ fails to recognise what makes a permanent union possible (outright sacrifice), or because the Genoese fails to recognise that private contracts could also imply validity (and sacrifice). To the baroness’s son, Frederick, the ghostly voice becomes the occasion for his turn to tell a haunted story that implicitly revolves around a marriage contract that has not (yet) come to pass: A nobleman’s castle is haunted. In the vicinity of the house’s daughter, who has already rejected “einige Freier um sie” (“several suitors around her”) (UA, 1028), there is a mysterious throbbing that only stops when the father “schwur” (“swore”) (UA, 1029) to the girl that he would beat her to death if there was further throbbing. Unlike in the first story, here we learn to some extent how the audience tries to explain the ghostly sound. Luise sees in the girl “das eigne[] Gespenst” (“her own ghost”) who was playing a joke, while Fritz suggests identifying the ghost either as the girl’s guardian spirit or else as the voice of the lover who had wanted to steal the daughter. Karl, of all people, who has an affinity for revolution, regrets an undecidability between the different probabilities of the story. He then wrote the following two stories, which deal with extramarital and adulterous passion respectively. Both are retellings from the memoirs of Marshal Bassompierre (1579–1646). As stories from a pre-modern age to which the idea of love-marriage was alien, they tell, one might say with the Abbé, of “alte[n] Bekannte[n] […] in einer neuen Gestalt” (“old acquaintances […] in a new guise”) (UA, 1016). A married grocer’s wife seduces the marshal, obtains a fulfilled night of love in a brothel and– almost– a second meeting in the house of an aunt. Instead of once again encountering the beautiful grocer’s wife, who says of herself that “außer meinem Mann und Euch [niemandem] zu Willen gewesen” (“[she] has been at the will of [no one] except my husband and you”) (UA, 1034), the marshal finds a straw bed in flames in the house in question and two naked corpses on the table. The marshal flees, apparently suspecting that the woman has fallen victim to the plague, without ever thereafter being able to learn more about her. While here the meaning of the act of love and adultery is brought into the limbo of a ‘plague’ that is beneficial for the man, the second of Bassompierre’s anecdotes brings into play

4.1  From the Marriage Novellas of the Ausgewanderten to the Utopia…


the outrageous reaction of a wife: when she learns of her husband’s regular meetings with a mistress at his summer house, she goes there one day to silently lay her veil at the feet of those sleeping in bed. For the mistress, the veil causes such horror that she breaks the connection. The horror turns into a blessing insofar as the beloved leaves gifts to the legitimate daughters of the marshal, which are understood by the offspring as the “Ursache manches glücklichen Ereignisses” (“cause of many a happy event”) (UA, 1036). Both adultery stories now turn to marriage, which in the first two stories does not come about at all and remains prevented by the ghostly bang, into an enigma of commitment and breakup. Only in the adultery– be it that which is symbolized by the naked couple or that which is symbolized by the bridal veil– do the stories seem to receive a hidden truth.15

Spouses andLegal Entities The ‘renunciation’ that is imposed on the peripheral characters as a rule of communication from the beginning is explicitly unfolded only in the last pair of stories– in the Prokurator-Novelle borrowed from the Cent nouvelles nouvelles (c. 1460) and in the Ferdinand-Novelle (except Märchen, the only one for which there is no specific textual model)– also on the level of the narrative actions. It seems to have gone almost unnoticed that the last two novellas also differ from the previous ones in that only in them is a legal vocabulary introduced quite specifically. It is usually argued that the ‘renunciation marriages’ of the last two amendments express a plea for civil marriage as a ‘domestic’ means of conflict resolution.16 However, with the legal discourse offered up, which ironically is precisely not one of marriage law, but one of property and family law, it can be shown that the novellas end with highly questionable (marriage) legal relationships, and certainly not just for modern readers.  Cf. on this Neumann, who sees in the Bassompierre novellas the “aporetic constellation” of “alliance principle and blood principle” (Gerhard Neumann, “Die Anfänge deutscher Novellistik. Schillers Verbrecher aus verlorener Ehre – Goethes Unterhaltungen deutscher Ausgewanderten”, in: Wilfried Barner, Eberhard Lämmert, Norbert Oellers (eds.), Unser Commercium. Goethes und Schillers Literaturpolitik, Stuttgart: Cotta 1984, pp.433–460; here: p.450). Bauschinger sees in the Krämerin unconditional love and in the veil of Bassompierre’s wife the motif of renunciation, which only the two following novellas fully develop, anticipated (Bauschinger, “Unterhaltungen deutscher Ausgewanderten,” pp.148–150). Tang reads both stories as an appeal to renunciation, but completely ignores the question of female desire (Tang, “The Transformation of the Law of Nations,” pp.83f.). 16  Cf. for instance Pornschlegel, Der literarische Souverän, p. 137: “Goethe’s Novellenkranz is now quite obviously composed in such a way as to show the process of this coincidence [of duty/ law and inclination/love; note D.S.] or the beautiful internalization of the law, which tends to be annulled in voluntary renunciation, − and that from the crude sensuality of nature (of the first pair of novellas) to the fatal self-sacrifice (of the second pair) to the happy socialization (of the third pair)– is presented in continuous increase or steady inward shift.” 15


4 Between Märchen andNovel: Goethe’s Marriage Experiments

This becomes particularly clear in the story from the Cent nouvelles nouvelles, where Goethe shifts the emphasis precisely by introducing legal terms at a crucial point.17 An already fifty-year-old, very rich and well-travelled sailor and merchantman is suddenly overcome by a longing for more imperishable goods than gold and material wealth. He wants to marry and, with the help of his shipmates, soon finds the most beautiful girl in town. For almost a year the couple lives in domestic bliss, but even before a child is announced, the merchantman is once again seized by wanderlust. In order to prevent the imminent adultery of his wife, who is only sixteen or seventeen years old, he devises an unusual means: in the event that she can no longer renounce the pleasures of love, he allows her to commit adultery, but only with an honourable and virtuous lover. The case occurs, the beautiful girl chooses an honorable procurator (“clerc”18) who has just graduated from law school. And while in the French text this circumstance only serves to secure the lover’s social rank, in Goethe’s version the lover becomes an explicitly juridical (and not: moral) authority who influences the wife. The young jurist wants to, but cannot, give himself to the lady because he has made a vow of renunciation to Our Lady that binds him for another two months.19 He therefore proposes to her a divided asceticism of chastity, prayer, water and bread to shorten the period. In the case of the young woman, the strict and grotesquely exaggerated fasting cure leads to an extreme, physical limit, which the text presents as both decisive for the crisis and “völlige Genesung” (“complete recovery”) (UA, 1056). The recovery, it is repeatedly emphasized, would lie in the wife learning self-control before adultery ensues. She gratefully lets her almost-lover know that: “Sie haben mich fühlen lassen, daß außer der Neigung noch etwas in uns ist, das ihr das Gleichgewicht halten kann, daß wir fähig sind, jedem gewohnten Gut zu entsagen und selbst unsre heißesten Wünschen von uns zu entfernen.” (“you have made me feel that apart from the inclination there is still something in us that can balance it, that we are capable of renouncing any  Theodore Ziolkowski, “Goethe’s Unterhaltungen deutscher Ausgewanderten: A Reappraisal,” Monatshefte 50 (1958), 57–74, in his comparison of the Procurator novella with the original from the Cent nouvelles nouvelles, refers only to “an expressly moralizing conclusion to the story” (p.69), but does not mention the legal context and its modifications at all. Hints of the shift to the legal can be found in Hans J.Rindisbacher, “Procurator or Procreator: Goethe’s Unterhaltungen as Ironic Genre Praxis,” Goethe Yearbook 7 (1994), 62–84; however, his thesis, according to which the impotent husband is replaced by a procurator who is in turn impotent, is not really comprehensible. 18  Cf. the 100th novella of the edition Les Cent nouvelles nouvelles, o. ed., Paris: Garnier 1866, pp.403–424. 19  The fact that, according to the French text, the student in Bologna was accused and arrested for a student rebellion is revealing. In prison, he makes a vow to get out of the affair scot-free. By his own admission, he had been implicated in it as an innocent man. Goethe suppresses this reason in order not to put the procurator in a legal grey area, and makes an emergency due to illness the occasion for the vow: “In the greatest distress and under the most violent pain I made a vow to the Mother of God […].” (UA, 1053) Rindisbacher, “Procurator or Procreator,” p.74, also points out this difference and the parallelism of spouse and procurator associated with it. Both temporarily disengage from sexual intercourse in order to ward off their ‘illness’. 17

4.1  From the Marriage Novellas of the Ausgewanderten to the Utopia…


accustomed good and removing even our hottest desires from us..”) (UA, 1056) Following an obviously incorrect reading of Schiller, this moral renunciation has been seen as a main difference to the novella original, where– according to Schiller– “bloß die zeitig erfolgte Rückkehr des Alten das Glück der Kur” (“merely the timely return of the old man would have sealed the happiness of the cure”).20 This is a mistake, for in the Cent nouvelles nouvelles, too, it is already a matter of a ‘moral’ renunciation before the return of the husband, of which the story no longer reports at all. What changes in Goethe’s reading is merely the status of the faithful wife: whereas the early modern novella de- and restabilizes the husband’s patriarchal right to the wife’s property through the accidental-novellistic alliance of husband and lover, Goethe’s variant aims at a legally altered status of the wife. It is she who (unlike the narrator of Cent nouvelles nouvelles) has the last word in the novella. In doing so, she ‘approves’ of her husband, who ‘was magnanimous enough to put his rights before the demands of nature’; but she puts the procurator in the right, to whom she henceforth “owes [her] whole existence ” (“ganzes Dasein […] schuldig”) (UA, 1056). As a new, political wife, she prophesies him the Roman honorary title of pater patriae: “Sie werden mehr als der erste Staatsmann und der größte Held den Namen Vater des Vaterlands verdienen.” (“You will deserve the name father of the fatherland more than the first statesman and the greatest hero.”) (UA, 1057) The legal additions which the narrator has the procurator make– against his early modern model– are ironically intended to turn the prophylactic moral stipulations of the departing husband into an act of disruption of a contractual relationship:21 denn es ist gewiß, daß ein solcher, der ein junges Weib zurück läßt um ferne Weltgegenden zu besuchen, als ein solcher anzusehen ist, der irgend ein anderes Besitztum völlig derelinquiert [aufgibt; Anm. D. S.] und durch die deutlichste Handlung auf alles Recht daran Verzicht tut. Wie es nun dem ersten besten erlaubt ist eine solche völlig ins Freie gefallene Sache wieder zu ergreifen; so find ich um so mehr natürlich und billig, daß eine junge Frau, die sich in diesem Zustande befindet, ihre Neigung abermals verschenke […]. Tritt nun aber gar, wie hier, der Fall ein, daß der Ehemann selbst, seines Unrechtes sich bewußt, mit ausdrücklichen Worten seiner hinterlassenen Frau dasjenige erlaubt, was er ihr nicht verbieten kann; so bleibt gar kein Zweifel übrig, um so mehr, da demjenigen kein Unrecht geschieht, der es willig zu ertragen erklärt hat.22 (UA, 1051 f.)

 Schiller to Goethe, 20 March 1795; quoted in: Goethe, Wilhelm Meisters theatralische Sendung. Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre. Unterhaltungen deutscher Ausgewanderten, ed. Voßkamp/Jaumann, p.1522. Schiller is already mistaken in his assumption that the original is a novella by Boccaccio. It is possible that he had a completely different pre-text in mind. This erroneous assessment is reproduced in Zumbusch, Die Immunität der Klassik, p.311. 21  This is also referred to in Tang, “The Transformation of the Law of Nations,” p.85. 22  For it is certain that one who leaves a young wife behind to visit distant parts of the world is to be regarded as one who completely derelicts some other possession, and by the clearest act renounces all right to it. As it is now permitted to the first best to seize again such a thing that has fallen completely into the free; so I find it all the more natural and fair that a young woman who finds herself in this state should give away her inclination again […]. But if now, as here, the case occurs that the husband himself, conscious of his wrong, permits by express words his surviving wife that which he cannot forbid her; then no doubt at all remains, the more so since no wrong is done to him who has willingly declared that he will bear it. 20


4 Between Märchen andNovel: Goethe’s Marriage Experiments

With the derelictio, the woman becomes an “ins Freie gefallene[n] Sache” (“thing fallen into the open”) and the imminent adultery is envisaged as a legally conforming act. The sexual renunciation of the woman is preceded by a legal renunciation of the man. But this shifts the purpose of asceticism from marital fidelity to a legal obligation against oneself. In renunciation, the wife prevents her renewed reification by another and constitutes herself– in Kant’s sense– as a moral legal subject: “Sie haben mich mir selbst erhalten; Sie haben mich mir selbst gegeben, und ich erkenne, daß ich mein ganzes Dasein von nun an ihnen schuldig bin.” (“You have preserved me to myself; you have given me to myself, and I recognize that I owe my whole existence to them from now on.”) (UA, 1056)23 Not as a spouse, but ‘in her own person’, she delivers her little statist speech at the end, in which the disciplining of the sex drive, brought about by the legal scholar and practised by herself, is elevated to the supreme purpose of the state. Goethe’s novella politicizes marriage law: the procurator’s legal questioning of the indissolubility of marriage destabilizes the marriage relationship on the level of private law, so that it can be restabilized as a duty under state law by the woman who has ‘become’ chaste.24 The ‘sworn’ procurator and the ‘spouse-less’ wife of the novella thus also mirror the couple relationship between the abbé (the secular clergyman) and the widowed wife, who together ‘novellize’ the moral norm of the novella on the level of the frame story. The second of the abbé’s two renunciation novellas is complementary to the first in that it is not a chaste, austere wife but a chaste, austere husband – namely Ferdinand– who becomes the main speaker. At the centre of this marriage initiation story is the emancipation of the son from paternal authority. Here, too, it is a question of injustice and right, albeit not in the relationship between adultery and fidelity, but in the relationship between a violation of paternal right and civil freedom. For Ferdinand, his love for Ottilie, one of the most beautiful and richest girls in town, involves an economically lavish courtship, which brings him all the more into calamity as he is kept on a short leash financially by his father. The fact that the father himself manages the household negligently, as well as a “Trieb den Augenblick zu genießen” (“drive to enjoy the moment”) (UA, 1059)– inherited from the father himself– lead him to begin to question parental right as an ‘accident’. Ferdinand

 With Ulpian, Kant defines honeste vive as the first (of three) fundamental legal duties: “1. Be a legal man (honeste vive). Legal honesty (honestas iuridica) consists in this: in relation to others, to assert one’s value as that of a human being, which duty is expressed by the sentence: ‘Do not make yourself a mere means to others, but at the same time be an end for them.’ This duty will hereafter be explained as a liability arising from the rights of humanity in our own persons (lex iusti).” (Immanuel Kant, Metaphysics of Morals (1797), Part One, “General Classification of Legal Duties,” ed. Bernd Ludwig, Hamburg: Meiner 1998, p.45f.) 24  The status and intentions of the merchant remain questionable. Rindisbacher speculates that his departure might be motivated by sexual impotence and hope for vicarious fatherhood (“Procurator or Procreator,” p.71f.) This hope is thwarted by the state-bearing sublimation. But already his desire to marry oscillates between the desires to increase, preserve, ennoble, and inherit property. In his insatiable desire, he moves into the position of the adulterer and, moreover, could be associated with Goethe’s 1796 idyll Alexis and Dora. 23

4.1  From the Marriage Novellas of the Ausgewanderten to the Utopia…


does not understand that parents who allow themselves enjoyment deny it to their children: “[…] mit welchem Rechte tun sie es? Und wie sind sie zu diesem Rechte gelangt? Soll der Zufall allein entscheiden, und kann das ein Recht werden, wo der Zufall wirkt?” (“[…] by what right do they do it? And how have they arrived at this right? Shall chance alone decide, and can that become a right where chance works?”) (UA, 1063) “Mit diesen und andern Sophistereien über Besitz und Recht” (“With these and other sophistries about property and right”), the son, according to the narrator, is preoccupied, i.e. above all with the “Frage, ob man ein Gesetz oder eine Einrichtung, zu denen man seine Stimme nicht gegeben, zu befolgen brauche, und in wiefern es dem Menschen erlaubt sei im Stillen von den bürgerlichen Gesetzen abzuweichen” (“question whether one needs to obey a law or an institution to which one has not given one’s vote, and to what extent it is permissible for a person to deviate from the civil laws in silence”) (UA, 1064). A defective desk lock– coincidence, in other words– promptly leads Ferdinand to begin stealing from his father in order to be able to give his mistress a present. Ottilie learns– again by chance– of the illegality of the gifts and wants Ferdinand to take them back, but instead of a return, an engagement takes place, which, since it is without parental consent, is equally illegal: Er erklärte ihr, daß er ohne sie nicht leben könne noch wolle; er bat sie ihm ihre Neigung zu erhalten, und beschwur sie ihm ihre Hand nicht zu versagen, sobald er versorgt und häuslich eingerichtet sein würde. Sie liebte ihn, sie war gerührt, sie sagte ihm zu, was er wünschte, und in diesem glücklichen Augenblicke versiegelten sie ihr Versprechen mit den lebhaftesten Umarmungen und mit tausend herzlichen Küssen.25 (UA, 1066)

In the absence of the fiancée (and thus in the absence of the incitament of passion), the son’s repentance sets in:26 Ferdinand recognizes his “Verbrechen durch eigene Kraft” (“crime by his own hand”) (UA, 1070) and decides to use the trading trip on which his father sends him to secretly repay the stolen goods. The restitution almost fails, but thanks to maternal patience and intuition there is a reconciliation with the father, at the end of which is the plan of economic independence and the prospect of Ottilie as a “glänzende Schwiegertochter”) “brilliant daughter-in-law” (UA, 1076). Luise, the bride in the audience, hastily interrupts the narrative at this point to declare that she likes it very much because here someone is renouncing a personal wish of his own accord, and not being forced to do so from the outside. But does Ferdinand renounce a wish at all up to this point? Is it not rather a question of making amends for a legal offence, which is finally rewarded with the fulfilment of  “He told her that he could not live without her, nor did he wish to; he begged her to preserve her affection for him, and implored her not to refuse him her hand as soon as he was provided for and settled at home. She loved him, she was touched, she promised him what he desired, and in that happy moment they sealed their promise with the liveliest embraces and with a thousand hearty kisses.” 26  Nor does the narrative fail to point to the biblical and “paradoxical word” that “the Godhead itself takes more pleasure in one returning sinner than in nine and ninety righteous ones” (UA, 1071). 25


4 Between Märchen andNovel: Goethe’s Marriage Experiments

all his wishes– civil freedom, a loving marriage and a faithful connection to his family? Or was Luise’s comment meant to refer back to Ferdinand’s secret desire to transgress laws (including his father’s), and even with a critical-ironic intent? Hanging on the question is the problem of the end of the story, which Luise now demands. When the Abbé affirms that the story is “wirklich schon aus” (“really already over”) (UA, 1077), she counters this with the distinction between “Entwicklung” (“development”) and “Ende” (“end”). Thus the Abbé supplies the “Schicksal [s]eines Freundes” (“fate of [his] friend”) (UA, 1077), which Luise has presumably already ‘veiled’ in her interpretation. Ferdinand reminds Ottilie of her engagement. The latter, however, has no desire to follow her lover to the country to set up housekeeping, whereupon a final letter– in effect a dissolution of the marriage vows– follows. Ottilie returns “sein Wort” (“his word”) to Ferdinand, “ohne sein Herz ganz los zu lassen” (“without completely letting go of his heart”) (UA, 1079). Thus, Ferdinand marries the unnamed, “gute[s] natürliche[s] Mädchen” (“good natural girl”) (UA, 1079),27 whom he has already met on his trading voyage as an ideal housewife. In the end, the story focuses not on the couple’s new, marital relationship, but on the innovative pedagogy into which the young father of the house transforms his obviously continuing prickly love affair. He demands arbitrary renunciations from his children in order to train them in an “Enthaltsamkeit (“abstinence”) that is to be exercised not always, but “zur rechten Zeit” (“at the right time”) (UA, 1080)– that is, primarily in the high and revolutionary times of personal and national choice of partner. The baroness immediately honors and politicizes Ferdinand’s paternal rule, “denn so komme auch in einem Reiche alles auf die exekutive Gewalt an; die Gesetzgebende möge so vernünftig sein als sie wolle, es helfe dem Staate nichts, wenn die ausführende nicht mächtig sei” (“for even in a kingdom everything depends on the executive power; the legislature may be as sensible as it likes, it helps the state nothing if the executive is not powerful”).28 (UA, 1080) In fact, Ferdinand’s marriage escamotizes nothing but a paternal arbitrary rule that is beyond any positive reasonable law. His measures are as absurd as their success remains doubtful: “es fehlte nicht an Arten und Unarten in seinem Hause. Er schien über alles gleichgültig zu sein und ließ ihnen eine fast unbändige Freiheit” (“there was no lack of behavior and misbehavior in his house. He seemed indifferent about everything and allowed them an almost unbridled freedom”) (UA, 1079). Goethe’s only self-composed novella is– in contrast to the historically and literarily transmitted ghost stories, marshal memoirs and (law) novellas– cyclical and anti-­ novellistic. Its ending seamlessly follows on from the beginning, where Ferdinand  Sigrid Bauschinger points out that she is “the only female character in all the stories of the Unterhaltungen who is not explicitly described as beautiful” (“Unterhaltungen deutscher Ausgewanderten,” p.156). 28  Markus Hien recognizes in this comment by the baroness a reference to the Imperial Chamber Court of the Old Empire, which Goethe praised in Dichtung und Wahrheit as a good institution in itself, to which, however, no means of effective efficacy were provided (Altes Reich und Neue Dichtung. Literarisch-politisches Reichsdenken zwischen 1740 und 1830, Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter 2015, p.396f.). 27

4.1  From the Marriage Novellas of the Ausgewanderten to the Utopia…


questions his parents’ law. The questions he poses there can now be addressed to him: How did he come by his right? And, “Soll der Zufall allein entscheiden, und kann das ein Recht werden, wo der Zufall wirkt?” (“Shall chance alone decide, and can that become a right where chance works?”) (UA, 1063) In the end, one is not a step further, except that one is no longer dealing with a real father, but with a symbolic father and internalized law.29 The last pair of novellas thus repeats once again the puzzle of how a passion inflamed by female-revolutionary violence can be brought into a balance of the sexes or nations. While the procuratorial novella argues for legislative authority in the character of the wife, the final novella relies on executive authority in the character of the husband. The legal discourse that supposedly creates order in the last two amendments ironically does not produce a married couple, but either a wife or a husband, whereby both ascetic practices are just as absurd as the constitutionally contrary consequences which are drawn from them. The aporetic finding is repeated at the level of the micro-society of the frame narrative. Here the baroness and the abbé, replacing the place of paternal authority, confront each other as legislative and executive powers, as it were. The question of the fate of the exiled community is twofold. On the one hand, the frame narrative puzzles the future of the noble family: if as a reader one learns nothing about the Baroness’s deceased husband (has he become a victim of the Revolution?), one fears with Luise for a bridegroom who is at war. In addition, one wonders what the son Frederick is up to when he– following up on the bequest of the mistress from the Bassompierre anecdote– claims to keep a similar “talisman” (UA, 1037) in the family home, which was bequeathed to him after his father’s death. Finally, the pair of siblings with their royal Prussian proper names acquires the connotation of an (incestuous) royal couple, which at the same time points to the youth and the lily, the royal couple ofMärchen. On the other hand, however, the exclusion of the political topicality of the day causes a conflict of interpretation between the listeners, which is brought to a head in the positions of the Baroness and the Abbé. The Baroness’s initial demand for instructive and useful entertainment is countered by the Abbé’s prohibition of interpretation.30 On the second day (i.e. before the Abbé’s fourth and first novella), from which only the Baroness participates in the storytelling community, the discussion is taken up once again. She opposes stories “nach Weise der Tausend und Einen Nacht” (“in the manner of the Thousand and One Nights”) (UA, 1037) and demands, if the subjects are to be freely chosen, at least an adequate “form” would leave “uns einen stillen Reiz weiter nachzudenken” (“us a silent stimulus to continue thinking”) (UA, 1038). The Abbé, however, pleads– in agreement with the revolutionary Karl(!)– “daß wir ohne Forderungen genießen” (“that we enjoy without demands”) (UA, 1081), and thus prepares his or the   See also Andreas Gailus, ‘Poetics of Containment: Goethe’s Unterhaltungen deutscher Ausgewanderten and the Crisis of Representation’, Modern Philology 100 (2003), 436–474; here: 473. Tang, “The Transformation of the Law of Nations,” p.86, in reading Ferdinand’s pedagogy as a remedy for the crisis of ‘world order’, overlooks this fact of an internalization of sovereignty. 30  “[M]an soll keine meiner Geschichten deuten!” (“One shall not interpret any of my stories!”) (UA, 1016) 29


4 Between Märchen andNovel: Goethe’s Marriage Experiments

narrator’s Märchen, which, as the Abbé says, “an nichts und an alles erinnert” (“reminds us of nothing and everything”) (UA, 1081), which, operatic, melodramatic, trivializing and popularizing, is supposed to abolish the distinction between object and form, and thus to institute itself as an aesthetic norm elevated above all normativity. By setting the norm of the narrative against the normative narrative, the abbé, as a narrative instance, at the same time merges with the narrator of the Unterhaltungen. Märchen explodes their frame narrative: it ends them sovereignly and without comment. This happens in that the novellas, which only present marriage dilemmas, the lack of a valid marriage law and renunciation as an individual solution, are now transformed into the utopia of a state-political love marriage and the aesthetic structure of an inconclusive interpretability. At once reminiscent of everything and nothing, at the same time “bedeutend und deutungslos” (“significant and meaningless”),31 illustrates an obsolescence of all interpretation in an act that sovereignly establishes poetic law. Semantically, the fairy tale can be reduced to the minimal denominator of the regeneration of a social order. A raging torrent, enchanted things and beings make relations of exchange impossible. Kings are buried and await, along with their temple, a resurrection and a renewed bridge that will restore traffic between the riverbanks. Thanks to the voluntary self-sacrifice of a ‘green serpent’ who offers herself as a bridge, and under the guidance of the ‘old man with the lamp’, the ‘beautiful lily’ is freed from her curse to kill with her touch and is united with the ‘young man’ in a coronation ceremony. In a rich, theologically underpinned ritual, in place of a deformed and metallic amalgam ‘fourth’ king, the young ruling couple are installed by “die Kraft der Liebe” (“the power of love”) which, as the old man “lächelnd” (“smilingly”) adds, does not ‘rule’ but ‘form’ (UA, 1111). With the millenarian-mythical-fairy-tale ruling couple, any marital politics become superfluous in favor of a poetic (re)generation and an enthronement of the poet as wise counselor of the monarchical order. The (monarchical) couple becomes the utopian condition of possibility for social renewal,32 but the restitution of order does not depend on them, but on the sacrifice of the serpent and the escort of the old man, who prophetically proclaims “Es ist an der Zeit” (“It is time”). It remains revealing that it is the woman and lily, reminiscent of the French Bourbons among others, who are presented as disturbed by mating and touch, since everything living that touches her dies and everything dead is brought to life by her. In the self-­sacrifice of the serpent, then, not least the threat of female-revolutionary passion is tamed. Similarly, in his epic, Goethe attributes to Dorothea, betrothed to a revolutionary, an internalized  In the letter of 27 May 1796 to Wilhelm von Humboldt, Goethe speaks of the “difficult task of being at once significant and meaningless” (quoted in the commentary by Goethe, Unterhaltungen deutscher Ausgewanderten, in: Goethe, Wilhelm Meisters theatralische Sendung. Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre. Unterhaltungen deutscher Ausgewanderten, ed. Voßkamp/Jaumann, p.1558). 32  Cf. on Märchen as poetic utopia, esp: Katharina Mommsen, “‘Märchen des Utopien’. Goethes Märchen und Schillers Ästhetische Briefe”, in: Jürgen Brummack, Gerhart von Graevenitz etal. (eds.), Literaturwissenschaft und Geistesgeschichte. Festschrift für Richard Brinkmann, Tübingen: Niemeyer 1981, pp.244–257. 31

4.1  From the Marriage Novellas of the Ausgewanderten to the Utopia…


revolution that is tamed in her marriage to Herrmann. The marriage, which is said to be due to a “Kraft der Liebe” (“power of love”) and restores the state of equilibrium, justice, and peace, is not based on a passionate love between the lily and the youth, but rather on the sacrifice of love by all members of the community as instructed by the old man: “ein einzelner hilft nicht, sondern wer sich mit vielen zur rechten Stunde vereinigt” (“a single one does not help, but he who unites with many at the right hour”) (UA, 1103).33 This is not a new act of love, but a restorative force, designated as a fourth force alongside the ruling insignia of the “Reich unserer Väter” (empire of our fathers”), “die noch früher, allgemeiner, gewisser die Welt beherrscht” (“which rules the world even earlier, more generally, more certainly”) (UA, 1111). Märchen transforms the political-aesthetic conflict (the supposed law of exclusion) into an unfinishable allegorical game whose unraveling remains forever a promise, just as the state-political marriage of love and peace is utopianly promised. Whereas the novellas seek to exhort, educate, or incite the reader– especially in the last two stories– to conform to the law, Märchen chooses a prophetically seductive mode of speech that transcends this conformity to the law in the aesthetic pleasure or ‘marriage’ of text and reader.34 No wonder, then, that there was no shortage of speculation about the product of such a totalizing (marriage) covenant from the outset. Goethe himself apparently found pleasure in collecting allegorical keys from his readers. While contemporary interpretations tended to decipher moral allegories (imagination, reason, sensuality, etc.),35 national-­state and German-national variants proliferated in the nineteenth century. The title of Hermann Baumgart’s interpretation of the Märchen, published in 1875, spells it out: Goethe’s Märchen, ein politisch-nationales Glaubensbekenntnis des Dichters.36 In a “wahrhaft prophetischen Vision” (“truly prophetic vision”), it says tautologically, “Kräfte der Nation” (“forces of the nation”) would be awakened that would “das Werk der Erlösung und Wiedergeburt der Nation zur glorreichen Vollendung bringen” (“bring the work of redemption and rebirth of the nation to glorious completion”).37 No matter in which ‘realm’ one arrests the re-functioning of the

 Wolf Kittler emphasizes this aspect when he writes that “bourgeois love” triumphs at the end of the fairy tale. In the harmonious interplay of all the forces of nature, (couple) love becomes the “mediating instance between the realm of the fathers and the ideal political state” (Die Geburt des Partisanen aus dem Geist der Poesie. Heinrich von Kleist und die Strategie der Befreiungskriege, Freiburg: Rombach 1987, p.161). 34  Cf. on this Bernd Witte, who profiles the poetics of the fairy tale as an individual-poetic ‘offering’ for an individual-self-acting reader (“Das Opfer der Schlange. Zur Auseinandersetzung Goethes mit Schiller in den Unterhaltungen deutscher Ausgewanderten und im Märchen”, in: Barner, Lämmert, Oellers (eds.), Unser Commercium, pp.460–484). 35  Cf. the manuscript dated 1816 with the compilation of three interpretations in: Goethe, Wilhelm Meisters theatralische Sendung. Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre. Unterhaltungen deutscher Ausgewanderten, ed. Voßkamp/Jaumann, pp.1116f. 36  Hermann Baumgart, Goethe’s Märchen, ein politisch-nationales Glaubensbekenntnis des Dichters, Königsberg: Hartungsche Buchdruckerei 1875. 37  Ibid., p.40. 33


4 Between Märchen andNovel: Goethe’s Marriage Experiments

fairy tale’s ‘Once upon a time’ into a utopian future,38 it is essential for the present context that this rule is not produced by the ruling couple, but merely represented by them.39 In Herrmann und Dorothea, Goethe will once again draw on the prognostic potential of the marriage law and turn the small form of the fairy tale into a ‘great epic’ that will prove more connectable to social reality.

4.2 Excursus: Romantic Mating, Transcending Marriage (Novalis) However, before dealing with this literary coup of Goethe’s (his most successful in his lifetime after Werther), the example of Novalis’ state-philosophical writing Glauben und Liebe oder Der König und die Königin40 will be used to show how radically the Romantic conceptions contradict a view of marriage as a legal institution. At the same time, the couple, the ‘pairing’ and an emphatic, organic concept of community become the central object of reflection. Adrian Daub therefore speaks of a “metaphysics of marriage”, which excludes institutionalizability and which he simultaneously puts forward in the name of a critique of the modern institution of marriage together with its attempts at reform.41 Novalis’s philosophem of marriage marks a limit to the representability of both the couple and the community. With his collection of fragments, published in 1798 in the Yearbooks of the Prussian Monarchy under Friedrich Wilhelm III, Novalis, as Wolf Kittler has shown, is reacting not least to Goethe’s Märchen. Thus the poem “Es ist an der Zeit” from the dedicatory poems Blumen (“Flowers”) introducing the aphorism collection refers directly to the newly built bridge and temple of the fairy tale: Glänzend steht nun die Brücke, der mächtige Schatten erinnert Nur an die Zeit noch, es ruht ewig der Tempel nun hier, Götzen von Stein und Metall mit furchtbaren Zeichen der Willkühr Sind gestürzt und wir sehn dort nur ein liebendes Paar –  Cf. on this Hien, Altes Reich und Neue Dichtung, pp.390–401 (“Translatio pacis in Goethes Märchen”), who points out that the national appropriation led to the fact that the imperial theological references were too neglected. 39  Wolf Kittler sums it up this way: “Instead of the happiness of love, the reason of state and marriage takes its place.” (Die Geburt des Partisanen aus dem Geist der Poesie, p.162.) 40  In the following quoted from the edition: Novalis, Werke, Tagebücher und Briefe Friedrich von Hardenbergs, ed. Hans-Joachim Mähl and Richard Samuel, vol. 2, München: Hanser 1978– The text was published with the collaboration of Friedrich Schlegel together with the dedicatory poems Blumen in the June and July issues of 1798. An associated third part, the Politischen Aphorismen, was censored and not published in the yearbooks. 41  Adrian Daub, Uncivil Unions. The Metaphysics of Marriage in German Idealism and Romanticism, Chicago/London: The University of Chicago Press 2012. Starting with Kant and Fichte, Novalis (pp. 105–147), Friedrich and Dorothea Schlegel, Sophie Mereau and Jean Paul form his main points of reference. 38

4.2  Excursus: Romantic Mating, Transcending Marriage (Novalis)


An der Umarmung erkennt ein jeder die alten Dynasten, Kennt den Steuermann, kennt wieder die glückliche Zeit.42 Whereas in Goethe’s poem the young man is presented with the insignia of the three previous kings (sword, sceptre and oak wreath) in a solemn investiture, and thus assumes the inheritance of his father’s kingdom, Novalis’ “liebendes Paar” (“loving couple”) radically breaks with this inheritance, and the old kings become “ Götzen von Stein und Metall mit furchtbaren Zeichen der Willkühr” (“idols of stone and metal with terrible signs of arbitrariness”). Kittler comments on the poem: “So wird die Liebe, die für Goethe nur eine Macht unter anderen Mächten war, zum wichtigsten Movens der politischen Utopie” (“Thus, love, which for Goethe was only one power among other powers, becomes the most important driving force of political utopia.”)43 Goethe’s metaphor of the royal couple for the utopian restitution of monarchical order transforms Novalis into the real royal couple Friedrich Wilhelm III and Luise, but– as will become clear in what follows– at the same time into the performative figure of a transcendental couple or pairing, which is to take the place of political sovereignty and state legislation. The political and aesthetic evaluation of Novalis’s writing, which appeared in a gazette of all places, continues to vary. One essentially vacillates between appreciation of a progressive critique of monarchy and criticism of a totalizing theory of community and biopolitics.44 Rather than take the word of one position or the other here, the fronting and enduring relevance of Novalis’s aphorisms– following Daub’s focus on a metaphysics of marriage– will be explained by their elevation of the couple to the status of a political issue.45 What is at stake here is not a fictional conception of society that would depict the marital union of king and queen as a founding event. Rather, it is about a genre-defying ‘novel’– fragments or even ‘a piece of progressive universal poetry’– whose author actively, procreatively works on a political and aesthetic ‘constitution’ of the people by means of the royal couple to be depicted.

 “Shining now stands the bridge, the mighty shadow reminds / Only to the time yet, it rests eternally the temple now here, / Idols of stone and metal with terrible signs of arbitrariness / Have fallen and we see there only a loving couple - / By the embrace everyone recognizes the old dynasts, / Knows the helmsman, knows again the happy time.” Novalis, Glaube und Liebe, p.288. 43  Kittler, Die Geburt des Partisanen, p.162. Cf. following him also: Ethel Matala de Mazza, Der verfasste Körper. Zum Projekt einer organischen Gemeinschaft in der Politischen Romantik, Freiburg: Rombach 1999, p.141f. 44  Cf. Oliver Kohns, “Der Souverän auf der Bühne. Zu Novalis’ politischen Aphorismen,” Weimarer Beiträge 54 (2008), 25–41. Kohns takes the side of the former and elaborates a “politics of representation” (p.26) that aims at citizen and monarch alike. 45  Interestingly, Rüdiger Campe recently used Novalis’ aphorisms as a critique of Schmitt’s concept of the political. The common ground of the concepts lies in the blending of conservatism and radical constructivism. Schmitt’s friend-enemy distinction is diametrically opposed to Novalis’ (supposedly only aesthetic) pair thesis. (Rüdiger Campe, “Is ‘the Political’ a Romantic Concept? Novalis’s Faith and Love or The King and Queen with Reference to Carl Schmitt,” in The Oxford Handbook of Carl Schmitt, ed. Jens Meierhenrich and Oliver Simons, Nov. 2014, pp.1–16; http:// 42


4 Between Märchen andNovel: Goethe’s Marriage Experiments

The collection of aphorisms begins with the problem of making the state visible. Already here, an analogy to marriage emerges, the visualization and representability of which has preoccupied marriage lawyers from the beginning. Rüdiger Campe has vividly illustrated how the Jahrbücher der Preußischen Monarchie initiated under Frederick William III, with their cabinet orders, lists of cultural and charitable events, of promotions and dismissals, birth and death statistics, cultural-­geographical bulletins, and panegyric-poetic interludes, are to be located within the framework of a systematic policy of making visible and centralizing the new Prussian monarchy.46 Fragment 6 gets to the heart of the problem: “Ein großer Fehler unserer Staaten ist es, daß man den Staat zu wenig sieht. Überall sollte der Staat sichtbar, jeder Mensch, als Bürger characterisiert seyn. Ließen sich nicht Abzeichen und Uniformen durchaus einführen?” (“A great fault of our states is that the state is seen too little. Everywhere the state should be visible, every person characterized as a citizen. Could not badges and uniforms be introduced by all means?”)47 But the aphorisms not only point to the problem, but at the same time contribute to its solution, for in the double title Glauben und Liebe oder Der König und die Königin, and then in the introductory dedicatory poems, they invoke a new image of royal rule. It is the image of the couple united in love that the poems draw and that is taken up again and again in what follows. “Ein wahrhaftes Königspaar ist für den ganzen Menschen, was eine Constitution für den bloßen Verstand ist” (“A true royal couple is to the whole man what a Constitution is to the mere mind.”)48 The replacement of the sovereign monarch by a royal couple, because they love each other, is new and unheard of in political philosophy. Novalis’ king does not rule alone, but as a couple. And as a pair it represents the state as a whole. The royal oikos is exemplary not because the queen (perhaps in contrast to the real Luise), as the ideal mother and housewife, would keep the king’s back free for governing and thus enable the king’s sole rule over his realm; rather, the court is exemplary because queen and king merge in this oikos into that ideal unity which is at the same time supposed to represent the polis. Novalis transfers the Pauline distinction between law and love and the associated metaphor of the corpus Christi to the Prussian state, presenting the royal covenant of love as the mystical founding act of a spiritual community in which monarchy and republic become indistinguishable: “Der ächte König wird Republik, die ächte Republik König seyn.” (“The true king will be republic, the true republic king.”)49 The provocation of this couple metaphor– not only for classical sovereignty theory or for Carl Schmitt’s so-called political theology, but also for any contemporary political philosophy– lies in making the intimacy of the couple the political operating principle of the community. Novalis does not, as has sometimes been claimed, focus on the queen instead of the king,50 nor does he seem to be  Cf. Campe, “Is ‘the Political’ a Romantic Concept?”, p.4f.  Novalis, Glauben und Liebe, p.295. 48  Ibid., p.292. 49  Ibid., p.296. 50  Cf. for instance Kittler, Die Geburt des Partisanen, p.163, who speaks of a centering on “the figure of the maternally loving woman” and of a “clearly matriarchal fantasy”. 46 47

4.2  Excursus: Romantic Mating, Transcending Marriage (Novalis)


concerned with propagating the ideal of a bourgeois nuclear family; rather, in his couple metaphor, he radicalizes the concept of the subject tout court. What is to be made visible in the royal couple is a pure relationality from which– like a magical, fairy-­tale and love-revolutionary operation– the “poëtische Staat” (“poetic state”)51 is to emerge. What the aphorisms want to make visible is not a ruling identity but a difference in unity. ‘The king’, who in Fragment 18 is conceived as a “höhergeborne[r] Mensch” (“higher-born man”) and “absolute[r] Mittelpunct” (“absolute middle point”),52 fulfils his function only as and in a pair. In the text, this pair repeatedly replaces the single person of the king. For instance, in Fragment 24: “Wird nicht der König schon durch das innige Gefühl Ihres Werts zum König?” (“Does not the king already become king through the intimate feeling of your worth?”)53 Or in Fragment 34: “Der König und die Königin beschützen die Monarchie mehr, als 200,000 Mann” (“The king and queen protect the monarchy more than 200,000 men.”)54 Just as Novalis proposes to the queen “häuslichen Wirkungskreis im Großen” (“domestic sphere of activity on a grand scale”) as a “Kanzlei” (“chancery”) with her husband as “erste[r] Minister” (“first minister”)55 at her side, so he designs for the king a “praktisch-politische Akademie im Staate” (“practical-political academy in the state”) whose young men are to learn nothing from him but “[p]ersönliche Liebe” (“[p]ersonal love”).56 The extension of private domesticity to the whole territory and all institutions make of the state a public state play, that “Theaterstaat” (“theatre state”),57 which is invented, performed and viewed by the loving personal union of king and queen. What does the visibility of the royal ruling couple mean for the concept of marriage? Well, it becomes a performative, factually unrealizable, utopian legal concept that can only be realized in actu, but not de facto. In Fragment 36, which sharply criticizes Frederick William I, among others, for having administered the Prussian state like a “Fabrik” (“factory”), it says at the end, “Uneigennützige Liebe im Herzen und ihre Maxime im Kopf, das ist die alleinige, ewige Basis aller wahrhaften, unzertrennlichen Verbindung, und was ist die Staatsverbindung anders, als eine Ehe?” (“Unselfish love in the heart and its maxim in the head, that is the sole, eternal basis of all true, inseparable union, and what is state union but marriage?”)58  The term does not appear in Glauben und Liebe, but in the Vermischte Bemerkungen, the original version of the Blüthenstaub aphorisms, which appeared in the journal Athenäum in 1798 (cf. Werke, Tagebücher und Briefe Friedrich von Hardenbergs, ed. Mähl/Samuel, vol. 2, p.282). 52  Novalis, Glauben und Liebe, p.294. 53  Ibid., p.296. 54  Ibid., p.300. 55  Ibid., p.297. 56  Ibid., p.302. 57  Thus Kohns, “Der Souverän auf der Bühne,” p. 26, with reference to Martin Schierbaum, Friedrich von Hardenbergs poetisierte Rhetorik. Politische Ästhetik der Frühromantik, Paderborn etal.: Schöningh 2002. 58  Novalis, Glauben und Liebe, p.301. 51


4 Between Märchen andNovel: Goethe’s Marriage Experiments

With historical private-law marriage legislation, that of the Prussian Land Law, for instance, which deals with conjugal and parental relations of obligation and property, with the consummation of marriage by a priest, etc., this state-political conception of marriage does not have much to do. Rather, in it, a literalization of Christian Eucharist (in the conjugal union) is accompanied by a remarkable refiguralization of the couple’s carnal union into a ‘fictive state’. In place of a sacrificial event come the notions of ‘royal wedding’, ‘marriage’, ‘betrothal’ as initiatory formulas intended to establish a “Zeit des ewigen Friedens” (“time of eternal peace”).59 The transformation of the “königliche Vermählung in einen ewigen Herzensbund” (“royal marriage into an eternal covenant of the heart”) is referred to as the “Wunder der Transsubstantiation” (“miracle of transubstantiation”).60 Analogous to visible medals, uniforms, adornment and jewellery, “glückliche Ehen” (“happy marriages”)61 are to become more frequent in the state and with “jeder Trauung […] eine bedeutungsvolle Huldigungszeremonie der Königin” (“every marriage ceremony […] a meaningful ceremony of homage to the Queen”)62 is to be introduced. Marriage, it seems, is invoked in the image of a physical union that spills over to all citizens of the state. At the same time, this image takes on an animating function; the “Tropen und Räthselsprache” (“tropes and riddle language”) of the aphorisms turn the dead letters of the law into a “Geist” (“spirit”) that will “alle Menschen wie ein paar Liebende zusammen schmelzen” (“melt all men together like a pair of lovers.”)63 Thus, in Fragment 30, “so könnte durch diese beständige Verwebung des königlichen Paars in das häusliche und öffentliche Leben, ächter Patriotism entstehen” (“by this constant interweaving of the royal pair into domestic and public life, might come about genuine patriotism.”)64 This fiction of universal fusion stands between Rousseau’s social contract, in which all contracting parties unite into one ‘moi commun’, on the one hand, and Kant’s definition of marriage, according to which mutual sexual possession constitutes a single ‘moral person’, on the other. Novalis’ king, who is only there to make all people “thronfähig” (“fit for the throne”),65 is a kind of ego-commune that Reinhard Brandt already sees laid out in Kant’s marriage law: Wenn sich alle erotisch interessierten Partner mit allen anderen in einen wechselseitigen Sachbesitz ihrer Personen begeben und jeder oder jede sich eben dadurch als freie Person wiedergewinnt, dann wird sie durch die assoziierten Partner im wechselseitigen Gebrauch nicht verletzt, weil alle in der Ich-Kommune, dem „moi commun“, eine rechtliche Einheit bilden und niemand da ist, dem oder der sich jemand als anderer oder als anderem hingäbe.

 Ibid., p.293.  Ibid., p.304. 61  Ibid., p.297. 62  Ibid., p.299. 63  Ibid., p.293. 64  Ibid., p.299. 65  Ibid., p.294. 59 60

4.2  Excursus: Romantic Mating, Transcending Marriage (Novalis)


Da sträuben sich dem Kantianer die Haare, die Anhänger Rousseaus sind überrascht, der Eherechtler denkt nach.66

The mixture of the sexes, which in Kant’s case is prevented by reproduction as the objective purpose of marriage, no longer seems to be systematically excluded in Novalis’s citizens, who have been made fit for the throne by tropical love. In the Allgemeines Brouillon, written at the same time as Glauben und Liebe, it says: “Eine Ehe sollte eigentlich eine langsame, continuirliche Umarmung, Generation– wahre Nutrition – Bildung eines Gemeinsamen, harmonischen Wesens seyn? Selbstbildung, Selbstbetrachtung ist Selbstnutrition, Selbstgeneration.” (“A marriage should actually be a slow, continuous embrace, generation– true nutrition– formation of a common, harmonious being? Self-formation, self-­contemplation is self-nutrition, self-generation.”)67 The analogization of the sexual act with the process of eating, which is again played out in both directions on the ladder from ‘physical’ to ‘mental’,68 leads, also in Allgemeines Brouillon to the explicit questioning of gender roles: Empfangen ist das weibliche Genießen– Verzehren das Männliche. (Ein Säufer ist einer liederlichen Frau zu vergleichen.) Das Befruchten ist die Folge des Essens – es ist die umgek[ehrte] Operation – dem Befruchten steht das Gebären, wie dem Essen, das Empfangen entgegen. / Der Mann ist gewissermaaßen auch Weib, so wie das Weib Mann– entsteht etwa hieraus die verschiedne Schamhaftigkeit?69

The symbolization of marriage in the image of carnal and spiritual mating has an eminently political consequence: it deprives state marriage legislation of its main biopolitical purpose. “Der Hauptzweck der Ehe ist die Erzeugung und Erziehung der Kinder” (“The main purpose of marriage is the production and upbringing of children”), reads the first paragraph on marriage in the Preußisches Landrecht

 “If all erotically interested partners enter into a reciprocal material possession of their persons with all the others, and if each one recovers himself or herself as a free person precisely through this, then it is not violated by the associated partners in the reciprocal use, because all of them form a legal unity in the ego-commune, the ‘moi commun,’ and there is no one to whom or which anyone gives himself or herself as another or as other. This makes the Kantian’s hair stand on end, the followers of Rousseau are surprised, and the marriage lawyer thinks.” Reinhard Brandt, “Kant’s Eherecht”, in: Maximilian Bergengruen, Johannes F.Lehmann, Hubert Thüring (eds.), Sexualität– Recht– Leben. Die Entstehung eines Dispositivs um 1800, Munich: Fink 2005, pp.113–131; here: p.125f. 67  Novalis, Das allgemeine Brouillon, Mähl/Samuel, vol. 2, p.488. 68  Cf. also in detail Matala de Mazza, Der verfasste Körper, pp.144–161, who illustrates, among other things with an example from the Geistliche Lieder, the conflation of religious and erotic desire and traces, in discourse-historical terms, the significance of John Brown’s physiology for Novalis’ aesthetic ‘Reiz(ungs)-Modell’. 69  “Receiving is the feminine enjoyment– consuming the masculine. (A drunkard is to be compared to a dissolute woman.) Fertilizing is the consequence of eating– it is the operation that is honored– fertilizing is opposed to giving birth, as eating is opposed to receiving. / The man is to a certain extent also woman, just as the woman is man– is this the origin of the different shamefulness? Ibid., p.495. 66


4 Between Märchen andNovel: Goethe’s Marriage Experiments

(Prussian Land Law).70 Physical filiation, however, now plays a peculiarly subordinate role in Glauben und Liebe.71 The parental love of the royal couple is not mentioned; for the “Bildung eines Gemeinsamen” (“formation of a common”) state, only the love between king and queen is the model. For the realization of the ideal ‘state individual’, a legally regulated marriage can therefore only represent a provisional arrangement, which in the end will have become superfluous thanks to ‘faith’ and ‘love’.72 ‘Marriage’ would thus be less a statute than an equally utopian and paradoxical constitutional law (a ‘state connection’), which ‘gives birth’ to the state individual beyond the state – quasi as a literal ‘national’ subject. One point of Novalis’s metaphorical use of marriage would thus be to express in it that fictive unity and totality which Benedict Anderson has elaborated as constitutive of the ‘imagined community’ of the nation.73 Despite this, or perhaps because of it, Novalis’s writing has been marginalized in the process of German nationalization in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, to which Carl Schmitt’s polemical reception of Romanticism still attests. The aforementioned Baumgart, who euphorically celebrates Goethe’s Märchen as a national prophecy in 1875, “kann nicht umhin” (“cannot help”) speculating at the end whether the pug with which the beautiful Lily plays so heartily and “den der Jüngling so garstig findet” (“which the young man finds so nasty”), “nicht ein humoristischsatirischer Hinweis auf die Anfänge der Romantik sein [sollte], die um die Mitte der neunziger Jahre schon sichtbarlich sich zu entwickeln begann” (“[should] not be a humorous-satirical reference to the beginnings of Romanticism, which was already visibly beginning to develop around the mid-nineties.”) “Wie dem auch sein mag” (“Be that as it may”), he concludes, “in dem zu seiner Kraft gelangten, nationalen Staate ist für jene mystische Romantik der Kunst keine Stelle mehr” (“in the national state that has attained its power, there is no longer any place for that mystical romanticism of art”).74 The moment the national state sees itself realized politically and legally, it must become blind to its origins. Novalis, however, who can hardly be called a proponent of the legal institutionalizability of marriage and law, at the same time gives in the Blüthenstaub  Allgemeines Landrecht für die Preußischen Staaten von 1794, ed. Hans Hattenhauer, Frankfurt a. M./Berlin: Alfred Metzner Verlag 1970; Zweyter Teil, Erster Titel, § 1, p.345. 71  Cf. on this argument the section “The Royal Couple and Its Product” in Daub, Uncivil Unions, pp.123–129. 72  Cf. on this also Michael Gamper: “As traditional police measures, the abolition of brothels and the increase of ‘happy marriages’ are also assigned to it, i.e. the taming of passion and sexuality in a traditional institution that only in the ideal state, thanks to the titular virtues of ‘faith’ and ‘love’, no longer requires regulation.” (“Collective ‘Life’ around 1800. Social (De-)figuration in Herder, Burke and Hardenberg”, in: Bergengruen, Lehmann, Thüring (eds.), Sexualität– Recht– Leben, pp.67–88; here: p.86.) 73  Benedict Anderson, Die Erfindung der Nation. Zur Karriere eines folgenreichen Konzepts, Frankfurt/New York: Campus Verlag2 1996 (Engl. Orig. 1983). Kohns, “Souverän auf der Bühne”, p.28, already refers to this. In this context, he quotes the 49th fragment from the Blüthenstaub aphorisms: “The people is an idea. We are to become a people. A perfect man is a small people. Genuine popularity is the highest aim of man.” (Novalis, Blüthenstaub, ed. Mähl/Samuel, vol. 2, p.247.) 74  Baumgart, Goethe’s Märchen, p.128f. 70

4.3  Herrmann und Dorothea: Epic Disguise


fragments the prophetic hint of that poetic text which was obviously better suited for this purpose: in the “Aufnahme, welche Herrmann und Dorothea im Allgemeinen gefunden hat” (“reception which Herrmann und Dorothea has found in general”) he sees an “interessantes Symptom” (“interesting symptom”) of the fact that contemporaneity intuitively began to recognize in Goethe the “wahre Statthalter des poetischen Geistes auf Erden” (“true governor of the poetic spirit on earth”).75 This ‘interesting symptom’ will now be investigated.

4.3 Herrmann und Dorothea: Epic Disguise In none of the texts examined here does marriage become as much a national fiction as in Goethe’s Herrmann und Dorothea. Novalis’s assessment of the little epic as a ‘symptom’ remains instructive in this respect. The poetic experiment is ‘interesting’ not so much because in it the refugee girl Dorothea from the Left Bank of the Rhine and the German innkeeper’s son Herrmann meet, fall in love and become engaged in the record time of a day, but it is interesting because this unheard-of– and thus again novella-like– union is presented as the ultimate solution not only to social, societal and political antagonisms, but also to poetic ones. Goethe’s “Revolutionierung des Epos” (“revolutionization of the epic”) is based on a comprehensive– social, national, and aesthetic – redefinition of the concept of genre.76 The experiment labours aesthetically and politically on a new ‘law of genre’, the precarious novelty of which is to promise the community formed by this law as a ‘national’ one.77 It has presumably been saved in literary history by the fact that the text ends not with a marriage but with an engagement (and only provisional declaration of fidelity). In the following textual reading, however, the aim is to show how the rhetoric of betrothal or marriage provides the hinge for the ambivalence of ‘national’ normativity and ‘aesthetic’ auctoriality. For once, unlike in the novellas of The Ausgewanderten, revolution in Herrmann und Dorothea is not equated with destructive passion and adultery, but with a ‘love’ that is incorporated into the community as the law of its formation. And unlike the narrator of Märchen who– as a caricature of a prophet, as it were– announces the renewal of royal rule (and of all marriages), in Herrmann and Dorothea it is an antiquely renewed, bourgeois epic poet who, in  Novalis, Blüthenstaub, p.279.  Cf. the concise remarks of Yahya Elsaghe, “Säbel und Schere: Goethe’s Revolutionization of the Epic and the Reception Career of Hermann und Dorothea,” Seminar 34 (1998), 121–136. 77  “La question du genre littéraire n’est pas une question formelle: elle traverse de part en part le motif de la loi en général, de la génération, au sens naturel et symbolique, de la naissance, au sens naturel et symbolique, de la différence de génération, de la différence sexuelle entre le genre masculin et le genre féminin, de l’hymen entre les deux, d’un rapport sans rapport entre les deux, d’une identité et d’une différence entre le féminin et le masculin.” (Jacques Derrida, “Force de loi”, in: id., Parages, Paris: Galilée 1986, pp. 249–287; here: p. 277.) And it should be recalled that Derrida’s “Force de loi” emerges from a reading of Blanchot’s Un récit, and thus also touches on the latter’s model of the ‘unintelligible community’. 75 76


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the marriage of the exceptional bourgeois couple, allows the new age itself – independent of a political government – to dawn. From the small cases of the Ausgewanderten, the “miniaturisierenden Erzählen” “miniaturizing narrative” practiced there78 becomes the generically more pretentious case of a “miniaturisierenden Erzählen” (“poetic experimental politics”),79 epic-monumentalizing narrative. Revealing of this poetological programmatic is the elegy Herrmann und Dorothea, with which Goethe intended to announce the eponymous epic in Horen. In a sense, the elegy anticipates the call to the Muses, which is not placed in the epic itself until the ninth canto– shortly before the “Verlobung” (“betrothal”). The poet asks the Muse to rejuvenate him by giving him a better “Kranz” (“wreath”) than the one that once adorned Caesar’s head:Ach! Die Scheitel umwallt reichlich die Locke nicht mehr: Da bedarf man der Kränze, sich selbst und Andre zu täuschen; Kränzte doch Cäsar selbst nur aus Bedürfnis das Haupt. Hast du ein Lorbeerreis mir bestimmt, so lass’ es am Zweige Weiter grünen, und gib einst es dem Würdigern hin; Aber Rosen winde genug zum häuslichen Kranze; Bald als Lilie schlingt silberne Locke sich durch.80 According to Suetonius, Caesar is said to have obtained the privilege of always wearing the laurel wreath in order to conceal his bald head. When the new Homeride Goethe now asks for a ‘domestic wreath’ of lilies and roses instead of the laurel wreath, this conceals on the one hand a critique of rulers that pits fine art against a political art of deception.81 On the other hand, the call to the Muses is designed to include– in a domestic scene with the wife at the hearth and a boy ‘playing’ as he burns the rice – those poet-friends who are the godfathers of his epic project: “Gleichgesinnte, herein! Kränze! sie warten auf euch” (“Like-minded, come in! Wreaths! They await you”).82

 This is how Jaumann/Voßkamp characterize the Unterhaltungen deutscher Ausgewanderten in their commentary (cf. Goethe, Wilhelm Meisters theatralische Sendung. Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre. Unterhaltungen deutscher Ausgewanderten, ed. this, p.1558). 79  Thus Karl Eibl, “Anamnesis des ‘Augenblicks’. Goethe’s poetic conception of society in Hermann und Dorothea,” DVjs 58 (1984), 111–138; here: 114.– And as one can speak of poetic experimental politics, so also of political experimental poetics. 80  “Alas! The parting of the hair is no longer abundant: / That’s where you need the wreaths, to fool yourself and Andre; / Caesar himself wreathed his head only out of necessity. / If thou hast set me a laurel rice, let it hang on the branch / Further green, and once give it to the worthy; / But roses wind enough to the domestic wreath; / Soon as a lily silver curl winds through.” Johann Wolfgang Goethe, “Herrmann und Dorothea”, in: Ders, Gedichte. 1756–1799, ed. Karl Eibl, (=Vol. 1 of the Frankfurt edition), Frankfurt a. M.: Deutscher Klassiker Verlag im Taschenbuch 2010 (1987), pp.622f., vv. 16–22. 81  Cf. Elsaghe, “Säbel und Schere”, p.123f. 82  Goethe, “Herrmann und Dorothea,” p.623, v. 26. 78

4.3  Herrmann und Dorothea: Epic Disguise


Above all, the lyrical I wants to have two like-minded people with him, with whom the conceptually decisive intertexts of Herrmann und Dorothea are alluded to at the same time: Friedrich August Wolf, for one, who with his Praefatio secunda ad Iliadem and the Prolegomena ad Homerum (both 1795) presented the Homeric epics as the product of several poets, and Johann Heinrich Voß, who not only translated Homer into German hexameters, but from 1782 also created the bourgeois idyll Luise – in the style of Homer. Portrayed as “Kühn und befreiend” (“bold and liberating”), Wolf’s impact invokes Voß as a companion: “Uns begleite des Dichters Geist, der seine Luise / Rasch dem würdigen Freund, uns zu entzücken, verband” (“To us accompany the poet’s spirit, which his Luise / Quickly joined the worthy friend to delight us. ”)83 The poet-friends Wolf and Voß are summoned together for poetic-national family formation: “ Deutschen selber führ’ ich euch zu, in die stillere Wohnung, / Wo sich nach der Natur, menschlich der Mensch noch erzieht” (“Germans myself I lead you to, in the quieter dwelling, / Where according to nature, humanly man still educates himself”).84 But trickily, this invocation leaves open who is quite actually founding this new family, which announces itself as ‘German’ and as a ‘healthy lineage’. The couple Herrmann and Dorothea, as named in the title, gets into an ambivalent relationship with the male alliance that converses in a vinous way about the ‘human’, in which product and producer fall into one. Accordingly, the beautiful art is also one of ‘deceiving oneself and others’. The starting thesis for the following account is therefore that the couple who become engaged at the end of the text is the product of an aesthetic-‘epic’ deception, with which both absolutist and revolutionary state constitutions are criticised, but with which, in the same course, the couple is rendered impossible in favour of a masculine individuation or acquisition of identity. Goethe, in other words, makes the couple an aesthetic law of the genre and thus excludes it as an ontological component of the community. What is necessary for this is first of all a close look at Voß’s Luise, not only because the motif of the surprise wedding originates from it, but also because Herrmann und Dorothea, in several respects, ‘rejuvenates’ Voß’s patriarchal concept of society in terms of family politics.

Marriage Idyll andPatriarchy (Voß’ Luise) Voßen’s three idylls “Das Fest im Walde”, “Der Besuch” and “Der Brautabend” or “Die Vermählung” had already appeared individually in 1782 and 1783 in his Musenalmanach and Wieland’s Teutscher Merkur before he first published them in

83 84

 Ibid., vv. 35f.  Ibid., v. 33f.


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book form under the title Luise in 1795.85 Goethe’s Herrmann und Dorothea appears just two years later, in 1797, and although the French Revolution separates the texts, both are a literary double success. As early as 1795, a reviewer in the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung wrote of Luise: “ Die Fabel dieses handlungsvollen Gedichts ist höchst einfach, beynahe zu einfach zum Wiedererzählen, Voss hat aus der Heirath einer Landpredigerstochter eine Odyssee gemacht.” (“The fable of this action-­ packed poem is most simple, almost too simple to retell; Voss has made an odyssey out of the marriage of a country preacher’s daughter”).86 Like Herrmann und Dorothea, Luise became a nineteenth-century house book, school reading, and national treasure.87 Goethe’s Homeric “Zufallstreffer” (“chance hit”)88 profited from the success of Luise, the texts were read together, reviewed comparatively, and people were fans of Luise and Dorothea or just one of them, like Ludwig Gleim, for example, who stuck with Luise and stated, “ Die andre nehme, wer da will!” (“Take the other one, whoever wants it!”)89 This at the same time indicates the difference between these two texts, which are so similar: in Luise, the female protagonist alone gives the work its title, while Goethe focuses entirely on the couple. With Voß’ Luise, the idyll makes its way into the bourgeois milieu. The decisive innovation of what became the ‘bourgeois idyll’ lies in endowing a sensitive love story with both epic, Homeric-hexametric and idyllic dignity.90 As a counter-image and wish-image to a progressive and at the same time fearful reality, the idyll is characterized by the idea of wholeness and unity, with which a future perceived as uncertain is compensated. The characteristic features of the idyll are generally considered to be a circularly (rather than chronologically) organized temporality as

 In the more recent research– against the “Completed edition” of 1807 and the “Auswahl der lezten [sic] Hand” of 1823 (identical to it)– it has become customary to quote the Luise of Voß after the first book edition of 1795. The following new edition of the text is also based on this: Johann Heinrich Voß, Luise. Ein ländliches Gedicht in drei Idyllen, in: Ders, Ausgewählte Werke, ed. Adrian Hummel, Göttingen: Wallstein 1996, pp.36–94.– The 1807 version is considerably longer and also includes an appendix of notes by the author. In the following, the edition of 1795 according to Hummel or the original edition of 1807 will be cited– in each case with the year, idyll and verse: Johann Heinrich Voß, Luise. Ein ländliches Gedicht in drei Idyllen. Vollendete Ausgabe, Tübingen: Cotta 1807. – The third idyll is entitled “Brautabend” in 1795, “Die Vermählung” in 1807. 86  [Review of:] “Königsberg, b. Nicolovius: Luise, Ein ländliches Gedicht in drei Idyllen, by Joh. Heinrich Voss […],” Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung 158/2 (1795), 500–504; here: 501. 87  Cf. Heidi Ritter, “Resonanz und Popularität der Luise im 19. Jahrhundert”, in: Andrea Rudolph (ed.), Johann Heinrich Voß. Kulturräume in Dichtung und Wirkung, Dettelbach: Röll 1999, pp.215–236. 88  Thus Friedrich Sengle, “Luise von Voß und Goethes Hermann und Dorothea”, in: Gerd Rötzer, Herbert Walz (eds.), Europäische Lehrdichtung. Festschrift für Walter Naumann zum 70. Geburtstag, Darmstadt: Wiss. Buchgesellschaft 1981, pp.209–223; here: p.222. 89  Ludwig Gleim to Johann Heinrich Voß. 23 January 1798; quoted in Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Wirkungen der Französischen Revolution 1791–1797, ed. Reiner Wild, (= vol. 4.1 of the Munich edition), Munich: Hanser 1988, p.1089. 90  Cf. Helmut J.Schneider, “Idylle und bürgerliches Epos”, in: Hans Albert Glaser (ed.), Deutsche Literatur. Eine Sozialgeschichte, vol. 5, Reinbek: Rowohlt 1980, pp.130–143. 85

4.3  Herrmann und Dorothea: Epic Disguise


well as the “Präsenz einer überschaubaren egalitär organisierten Gruppe” (“presence of a manageable egalitarian organized group”) with the central topos of the locus amoenus.91 At the same time, it makes the idea of equality a highly political, as it were, a proto-Marxist counter-image to the existing social order. In the idyll– actually– nothing happens: the small society lives statically in happiness and love; it is constituted in opposition to change, crisis, conflict and action. Even today, marriage– or the ‘married state’, which is already static in the literal sense of the word– is a typical idyll cliché, which is probably most succinctly summed up in Jean-Paul’s famous definition of the idyll as an “epische Darstellung des Vollglücks in der Beschränkung” (“epic representation of complete happiness in limitation”).92 Now Voß’s Luise is evidently received from the outset precisely not as lacking in action, but as an ‘action-packed poem’ of epic proportions.93 What ‘eprically’ breaks into the idyll here, surprisingly as action, is nothing other than the supposedly static marriage itself. Voß combines the genre of the idyll, in which there is usually dancing, singing and playing without marriage, with a new law of marriage. Homerizing and marriage are intimately connected. More recent readings of Luise have been breaking the ‘idyllic spell’ for some time now;94 my aim in the following is to show how the text as a whole can be attributed to an enlightenment-sensitive current which, in the phantasm of virginity and against class structures, advances a bourgeois-­patriarchal order. What is at stake here is not so much the relationship of the married couple as an incestuous relationship between father and daughter. That Voß’s Luise idealizes a patriarchal order was, moreover, already obvious to contemporary readers. Thus, for example, a review from 1798 reads: “Der Rec. gesteht unverholen, daß die patriarchalische Einfalt, die sich in dem Vossischen Gedichte so mannichfaltig und schön offenbart, ihn mit stärkern Banden anzieht, als das bunte Leben des Göthischen […]” (“The reviewer confesses without hesitation that the patriarchal simplicity, which reveals itself so manifoldly and beautifully in the  Cf. Nina Birkner, York-Gothart Mix, “Einleitung”, in: Dies. (ed.), Idyllik im Kontext von Antike und Moderne. Tradition und Transformation eines europäischen Topos, Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter 2015, pp.1–13; here: p.4. 92  Jean-Paul, “Vorschule der Ästhetik nebst einige Vorlesungen in Leipzig über die Parteien der Zeit”, in: id., Werke, Abt. I, vol. 5, ed. Norbert Miller, Munich 1963, p.258; quoted in: Birkner, Mix (ed.), Idylle im Kontext, p.5. 93  Renate Böschenstein, for example, denies Luise any plot: “Luise herself, devoid of any plot as she depicts the stages of a completely unhindered love, remained fundamentally divorced from the larger genre; but she hinted at a new possibility of realizing it in the present” (Renate Böschenstein-­ Schäfer, Idylle, Stuttgart: Metzler2 1977 (1967), p.101).– This judgment seems explainable only by the teleological horizon of expectation-Goethe fulfilled what was implied in Voß. 94  This begins in principle with Sengle’s “Luise von Voß und Goethe’s Hermann und Dorothea”; see also: Brigitte Peucker, “Female Body, Textual Body: Nature, Art, and Property in Voss’s Luise”, in: James A.Parente, Richard Erich Schade (eds.), Studies in German and Scandinavian Literature after 1500. A Festschrift for George C.Schoolfield, Columbia: Camden House 1993, pp. 94–100; Gerda Riedl, “Hochzeit in der literarischen Idylle. An Exemplary Comparison of Johann Thomas’s Lisille (1663) with Johann Heinrich Voß’s Luise (1795),” Daphnis 27 (1998), 655–684; Irmgard Wagner, “Hermann and Dorothea in the Context of Kant and Voß: A Question of Peace and Patriarchy,” Goethe Yearbook 9 (1999), 166–185. 91


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Vossian poem, attracts him with stronger bonds than the colorful life of the godlike […].”)95 This in principle anticipates Irmgard Wagner’s thesis, according to which Herrmann und Dorothea is to be read as an attack on Voß’s patriarchal order.96 The three idylls begin and end with a festival. With a “Fest im Walde” (“feast in the woods”), the small Low German pastor’s family celebrates the 18th birthday of their only daughter Luise. The court master Walter, his pupil Karl and his sister, the count’s friend Amalia, accompany the group. We learn nothing about Walter’s origins, his family or how he came to be with Luise; it is simply clear that the young man will succeed the ‘little father’ as the “anderer Pfarrer von Grünau” (“other pastor of Grünau”)97– at least that is the prediction of the old weaver whom the small company meets in the forest.98 Amalia’s mother, the Countess, is a widow; the male nobility is kept entirely out of the text.99 The children are sent ahead, while the ­parents follow in a borrowed barge across the water. In the walk through the woods, the coffee picnic on cushiony ‘moss’ and the sumptuous lakeside meal, nature, love’s bliss and divine order merge. Luise is the erotic nature through which the priestly father-husband can and should proclaim his natural and divine law. Unreadably, almost pornographically, the text develops a parallel eroticism of nature and the priest’s daughter in the first idyll.100 Thus, immediately upon the narrator’s description of the girl’s beauty, he makes her pause herself to let the luxuriantly unfolding, excited and thrilling springtime nature itself say or sigh: “O wie es wühlt, weitschauend mit grünlichem Dampf durch den Rocken!” (“O how it rummages, far-seeing with greenish vapor through the skirt!”)101 The children– instead of gathering wood for the campfire– pick strawberries: “geschwollene Beeren” (“swollen berries,”) “röther wie Scharlach” (“redder than scarlet”), with ‘spicy’ “gedüft” (“fragrance”).102 In the strawberry field, Luise’s “rosiger Mund mit ätherischem  [The first book in the series, “Herrmann und Dorothea by J.W. von Göthe. Also under the title: Taschenbuch für 1798. Berlin, bey Vieweg the elder. 174pp.”, Neue allgemeine deutsche Bibliothek, vol. 44/1 (1799), 29–31; here: 31. 96  Irmgard Wagner, “Hermann and Dorothea in the Context of Kant and Voß: A Question of Peace and Patriarchy,” Goethe Yearbook 9 (1999), 166–185. 97  Voß, Luise (1807), I, 257. 98  Goethe will take this asymmetrical family constellation, but turn it around: Herrmann is the only son who is to be married to a familyless Dorothea. 99  In the friendly relationship between the priest’s family and the count’s family, Voß’s Enlightenment concern of an alignment of the bourgeoisie and the nobility is usually seen as realized. Biographically, it is associated with Voß’s friendship with Friedrich Leopold Graf zu Stolberg, which came to an abrupt end with the latter’s conversion to Catholicism (1800). Voß still wrote 20years later polemically against the conversion of his friend (1819 Wie ward Fritz Stolberg ein Unfreier?). From a biographical point of view, then, it is no coincidence that it is precisely in the course of the Luisen treatment that it is emphasized that the count died. Cf. Justin Stagl, “Vossens Luise als patriotische Tugendlehre,” Saeculum 57 (2006), 101–114; here: p.109. 100  Cf. Helga Kraft, “Idylle mit kleinen Fehlern. Zwei Frauen brauchen ich, ach, in meinem Haus. Luise von Voß und Stella von Goethe”, in: Dies., Elke Liebs (eds.), Mütter– Töchter– Frauen. Weiblichkeitsbilder in der Literatur, Stuttgart: Metzler 1993, pp.73–89. 101  Voß, Luise (1795), I, 136. 102  Cf. Voß, Luise (1795), I, 168, 146 and 170. 95

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Odem“ (“rosy mouth with ethereal breath”)103 receives a kiss from the youth Walter, which the text unmistakably connotes as a symbolic deflowering: “sie entschlüpfte dem Arm, und brach ein unscheinbares Blümchen” (“she slipped from his arm, and broke an inconspicuous little flower”).104 At the picnic that follows, the topical connection between nature and the erotic is supplemented with lectures by the vicar and (even) the courtier Walter, through which it becomes clear how fathers and sons discipline the impetuously shooting nature by giving it a divine law. The priest soars to the souls of “höherer Kraft” (“higher power”) and fancies himself in the company of “ mit Petrus, / Moses, Konfuz und Homer, dem liebenden, und Zoroaster, / Und, der für Wahrheit starb, mit Sokrates, auch mit dem edeln / Mendelssohn! Der hätte den Göttlichen nimmer gekreuzigt!” (“Peter, / Moses, Confucius, and Homer, the loving, and Zoroaster, / And, who died for truth, Socrates, also the noble / Mendelssohn! Who would never have crucified the divine!”)105 Walter chimes in with a fitting replica, and they rejoice “im vertraulichen Wechselgespräche” (“in confidential interchange”).106 Parallel to the emergence of the sexual-erotic bond between bride and groom, the first idyll thus narrates the spiritual coming together between bride’s father and son-in-law. And it is significant that the ‘confidential exchange conversation’ of the early edition later becomes a “treuliche[ ] Herzensergießung” (“loyal heartfelt conversation”).107 Luisen’s birthday is followed in the second idyll by a “Besuch” (“visit”) from Walter, and in the third idyll by the day of the wedding. The same small company gathers three times, and marriage is mentioned three times. While a ‘seamless’ transition between the first and second idylls is created via seasonal continuity– May Day– in the transition to the third idyll it is the time of day that suggests temporal continuity. In fact, at least a year must have passed between the first and second idylls, for the courtier has become the “Bräutigam” (“bridegroom”) and a “hochwohlehrwürdiger Pastor” (“most reverend pastor”) of the high baronial estate of Seldorf.108 Thus, between the first and second idylls, an engagement– omitted from the text– has also taken place. On the morning of the day of the visit, the priest is already dreaming as he speaks the words of the wedding ceremony, and Luise, who has overslept, also loses “der Gedank‘ [an den Bräutigam] in des lieblichen Traumes Betäubung” (“the thought [of the bridegroom] in the lovely dream’s stupor”) during her sleeplessness.109 Nevertheless, there is again a longer period between the second and third idylls, as the ‘bridal evening’ takes place on an October day.110 The text thus evokes the period, which logically is at least a year and a half, as a dreamlike,

 Voß, Luise (1795), I, 156.  Voß, Luise (1795), I, 160. 105  Voß, Luise (1795), I, 344–347. 106  Voß, Luise (1795), I, 376. 107  Voß, Luise (1807), I, 452. 108  Cf. Voß, Luise (1795), II, 48–50. 109  Voß, Luise (1795), II, 233. 110  Cf. Voß, Luise (1795), III, 697. 103 104


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bridal, idyllic time from blossom to harvest.111 This time is given an image in ‘Luise’ that reflects the reign of the pater familias in the daughter and wife as fruit-bearing property.112 A ‘third’, be it ecclesiastical, state or legal authority, which concludes the marriage, is omitted in Voß’ Luise. Luise, one might say, heralds that sensitive civil-civic religion which in Rousseau remains permeated by the conflict between social contract and marriage or, as in the Nouvelle Heloïse, is conceived as a crisis with a mortal threat. This order is pre-revolutionary in that it is not nation-state demarcation (from the ‘Franks’, which takes centre stage in Herrmann und Dorothea) that plays the decisive role, but demarcation from a confessional (as much Orthodox Protestant as Catholic) adversary who allows himself to be pressed into service by the nobility. The idyllic installation of the patriarchy is achieved by the fact that in the three idylls, the father narratively controls the schema of expectations of being in love, engaged and married:113 He sends the couple off to fall in love (first idyll), tests and instructs the bridegroom– in the conspicuous absence of the bride– in the second idyll, in order to hand the daughter over to the deputy at the end as a bride already ‘copulated’ by himself (third idyll). The third idyll ends with Luise and Walter retiring to the bridal bed prepared by her mother after the early wedding ceremony; it makes no difference whether Luise now sets up a new household with the priest of Seldorf or whether the new son, as the new priest of Grünau, will stay in his father-in-law’s house.114 What appears in this exemplary vicarage as a bourgeois ideal is the possibility of a universal patriarchal domination and economization of woman and nature. Voß’s social-utopian country parson has managed to transform the poor, gloomy and smoky parlour of the vicarage into a respectable place of representation.115 Nature becomes a place of added value; thus the vicar explains to Walter how much profit his formerly overgrown garden now brings in, so that in this house one can afford not only all the domestic culinary delicacies enumerated, but also the coffee much talked about in Luise.116 Walter is right in line with this when he presents his future father-in-law with an enormous “türkisches Rohr” (“Turkish pipe”) and “ächte[n] Virginiaknaster” (“real Virginia creeper [tobacco]”) as a guest gift and symbol of universally controllable– even oriental– ‘nature’.117 Symbolically, of course, he thereby deprives himself of potency as a  Cf. also Peucker, “Female Body, Textual Body,” p.98.  Cf. Voß, Luise (1795), III, 298–300: “Go at the hand of the youth who from now on / Is father and mother to you! Be to him a fruitful vine / Around his house”. 113  Irmgard Wagner notes that “The venerable patriarch controls the narrative structure” (“Hermann und Dorothea in the Context of Voß and Kant,” p.171). 114  Gerda Riedl draws attention to the fact that Voß, in a poetically refined manner, relocates a “post-history of the wedding feast […] into the retrospectively caught-up pre-history of the bride’s parents”– a motif that Goethe also takes up and with which a cyclical time is created (“Hochzeit in der literarischen Idylle”, p.676). 115  Cf. Voß, Luise (1795), III, 1–16. 116  Cf. on this social criticism and social utopia Günter Häntzschel, Johann Heinrich Voß. Seine Homer-Übersetzung als sprachschöpferische Leistung, Munich: Beck 1977, pp. 250–253. Also Peucker, “Female Body, Texutal Body,” pp.96f. 117  Cf. Voß, Luise (1795), II, 183–191. 111 112

4.3  Herrmann und Dorothea: Epic Disguise


spouse. The priest returns the gift in the third idyll with no other counter-gift than Luise. However, the idyllic “Verklärung der Dinge” (“transfiguration of things”)118 as patriarchally decreed is fragile at more than one point; it tends towards a “gespenstische[n] Gegenständlichkeit” (“haunting representationalism”),119 which will be disarmed by the appearance of realism and not least the juridical.120 The titular daughter Luise thereby marks the brittle, idyllic-apparent ground that both justifies and– on almost every page of the text– threatens the patriarchal right to marry. It was Friedrich Sengle who noticed the improbability of the surprising marriage, but only to exclude it from further argumentation as a “sozialgeschichtliche Frage” (“social-historical question”).121 But the whole art of making the idyll appear not as utopia but as a natural law is based on the aestheticization of the law of marriage. On the fine line between conformity to marriage law and deviation, the text establishes its patriarchal conception of women, marriage, politics, religion and poetry. One can associate the surprise act of the priest of Grünau with that “Naiven der Überraschung” (“naïveté of surprise”) of which Schiller speaks in his treatise Über naive und sentimentalische Dichtung (On Naive and Sentimental Poetry, 1795) and which he wishes to distinguish from a “Naiven der Gesinnung” (“naïveté of sentiment”).122 The early marriage ceremony is neither entirely an act of surprise nor entirely an act of sentiment; the priest– in principle a childlike creature of his wives and domestic servants – marries the couple “wider Wissen und Willen” (“against knowledge and will”)123 in a moment of affective-aesthetic overpowering. The first marital deviation is that the text makes no mention of betrothal– presumably because such would have implied the presence of Walter’s family. In formal legal terms, Voß thus moves entirely within the framework of the new marriage legislation. The Allgemeine Landrecht für die Preußischen Staaten (“General Land Law for the Prussian States”) of 1794 makes it clear: “Es ist nicht nothwendig, daß  Cf. Sengle, “Luise and Hermann und Dorothea,” p.211.  Cf. on this Uwe C. Steiner: “‘Gespenstische Gegenständlichkeit’. Fetischismus, die unsichtbare Hand und die Wandlungen der Dinge in Goethe’s Herrmann und Dorothea und in Stifter’s Kalkstein”, Deutsche Vierteljahrsschrift für Literaturwissenschaft und Geistesgeschichte 74 (2000), 627–653. 120  Cf. already with Böschenstein the reference to a relation to be examined between the idyllic “interior” produced by Voß “to the spatial description of the realistic novel” (Böschenstein, Idylle, p.101). 121  “We leave aside the socio-historical question of what the suddenly scheduled popular wedding in the parsonage– instead of in the castle!– because at this point we are interested in the narrative structure and the didactic form of presentation” (“Luise und Hermann und Dorothea”, p.212). 122  “In the naive of surprise, the person must be morally capable of denying nature; in the naive of sentiment, he must not be, but we must not think of him as physically incapable of it, if it is to come across to us as naive.” (Friedrich Schiller, Über naive und sentimentalische Dichtung, in Ders, Werke und Briefe, ed. Otto Dann etal., vol. 8: Theoretische Schriften, Frankfurt a. M.: Deutscher Klassiker Verlag 1992; pp.706–810; here: p.712.) Schiller further mentions Voß’s Luise in the section on the idyll in a footnote and, “although not entirely free from sentimental influences,” counts her “entirely among the naïve sex,” which may only be compared to “Greek patterns” (p.774). 123  Ibid., p.712. 118



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vor jeder Ehe ein förmliches Ehegelöbniß hergehe” (“It is not necessary for every marriage to be preceded by a formal marriage vow”).124 The second idyll, “Der Besuch,” replaces a betrothal ritual, in which, for example, a betrothal contract would be drawn up or rings exchanged, with the handing over of the ‘Turkish pipe’ to the bride’s father.125 The second conspicuous feature lies in the surprising house wedding. According to the church regulations in force, the church was the regularly prescribed place for a marriage ceremony. The regional authorities allowed exceptions,126 however in these cases the so-called copulation tax became due, which practically only a wealthy bourgeoisie or the nobility could afford.127 An exception to the exception was, as Zedlers Universallexicon is to be inferred, apparently Prussia, where Haustrauungen were very common.128 In Vossen’s Luise, however, the house wedding occurs neither as a special custom nor as a granted exception, but as a surprise and unforeseen incident. As fragmented and decentralized as the marriage legislation was in the empire at that time– the small territory of the bishopric of Lübeck with its center Eutin was connected with the county, later the duchy of Oldenburg, a spontaneous house wedding might have been unthinkable in the enlightened-absolutist environment and would have required special permission by the authorities.129 The wedding ceremony is actually scheduled for the day after the “Brautabend” (“bridal evening”), i.e. outside the idyll!130 Other details about the planned wedding are strangely omitted. Above all, one does not learn why  Allgemeines Landrecht für die Preußischen Staaten von 1794, Zweyter Teil, Erster Titel, § 81, p.348. 125  The reader learns later in the third idyll at the wedding ceremony that engagement rings have been exchanged beforehand, after which the priest speaks the words: “Children, shake hands; the exchanged rings of fidelity / You have already worn in love since the engagement” (Voß, Luise (1795), III, 335). 126  Cf. art. “Trauung”, Johann Heinrich Zedlers Grosses Vollständiges Universallexicon aller Wissenschafften und Künste. 1731–1754; cited from: (26.04.2016): “Haus-­ Trauung, ist eine Priesterliche Copulation zweyer verbundener Personen, so in der Braut, oder des Bräutigams-Hause, oder an einem anderen bequemen Ort, auf absonderlichen Vergönstigung und Zulassung der hohen Landes-Obrigkeit vollzogen wird.” 127  Cf. Art. “Trauung”, in: Johann Georg Krünitz, Oekonomische Encyklopädie, oder allgemeines System der Staats- Stadt- Haus- und Landwirthschaft, 1773–1858, vol. 187 (from 1845); quoted from: (26.04.2016): “Usually the marriage takes place in the church, as the actual place of the acts of worship, however, this is not absolutely necessary, but it can also take place in the home of the bride and groom by the clergyman, for which, however, the copulation tax, where it is paid to the church, is greater.” 128  “In the Prussian lands there is a different constitution with regard to marriage in the home. Marriage at home is permitted to everyone in all cities of the Royal Prussian Lands, especially in Berlin, so that almost no one is seen marrying in the churches there. How costly it is in various other countries to obtain permission to be married in one’s own home is well known.” (Art. “Trauung”, in: Zedler, Universallexicon, p.282f.) 129  Thanks at this point to Martin Grieger of the Johann-Heinrich-Voß-Gesellschaft for his historical information on marriage law and the changing rulership in the then (only) reformed prince-­ bishopric of Lübeck. 130  Cf. Amalia in the third idyll: “But we should see how it looks when the father / Will marry you to us tomorrow, in the stately robe of honor” (Voß, Luise (1795), III, 131f.). 124

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the wedding was to take place in the castle– surely because this would bring the nobility, which was to be delegitimized, back into play. Nor is there any mention of a Grünau church in the entire text; instead, nature becomes the “Tempel der Gottheit” (“temple of divinity”) for the small society.131 So how does the wedding come to be brought forward in the third idyll, and what ‘happens’ here? The third idyll begins with another spontaneous visit by the Countess with her children Amalia and Karl. The noble daughter Amalia retreats with Luise into the chamber; she regrets the loss of their friendship through Luise’s transition to the marriage yoke.132 Luise is in retaliation– “Ein Jüngferchen streubet sich minder, / Und ein anderes mehr; doch folgen sie alle nicht ungern” (“One maiden is less eager, / And another is more eager; but they all follow not unwillingly”)133 –; she shows Amalia her beautiful wedding dress, whereupon she “Tand aussinn[ ]t” (“comes up with the idea”)134 of putting on Luise’s bridal jewellery for a trial. For sixty hexameters, the narrator then describes how Luise, under the expert guidance of her noble friend, transforms herself into the sculptural image of a classical Greek beauty. To crown it all, Amalia presents her with a “Gehenk, noch warm vom Busen der Freundin” (“locket, still warm from the bosom of her friend”),135 with her name in the pendant, which is presented as both a legacy and a farewell to girlhood friendship. Walter, who enters the chamber just at this moment, looks at Luise speechlessly, “wie ein ländlicher Mann” (“like a rustic man”)136 who is overwhelmed by the fruit of the apple tree he has planted himself in autumn. With him, the sight of the bride results only in a ‘long and quivering’ kiss, but to the father in the parlor, Luise’s sight becomes the earnest of marriage. His spontaneously erupting monologue is already a wedding ceremony and begins with: “Gottes Segen mit dir, holdseliges, allerliebstes / Töchterchen” (“God’s blessing on you, blissful, most loving / Little daughter”),137 then changes into self-reflection: “Wunderbar regt sich mein Herz beim Anblick einer geschmückten / Jungen Braut” (“Wonderfully my heart stirs at the sight of a decorated / Young bride”)138 and leads into the recitation of Bible verses. These are the biblical words from the First Book of Moses and the Gospel of Matthew recommended by Luther in his Traubüchlein, which involuntarily escape him at this moment, as it were as a consolation for the impending loss,

 Voß, Luise (1795), I, 430. Once, however, the church is mentioned, namely when the priest remembers his own wedding ceremony, significantly not as the place of happy marriage, but of painful remembrance of the loss of the children his marriage brought him: “When my walk to the church’ leads me past the flowery crypt!” (Voß, Luise (1795), III, 182)– The ‘flowery crypt’ seems like a paraphrase of Jean-Paul’s ‘full happiness in limitation’. 132  Cf. Voß, Luise (1795), III, 109–111: “Men no longer kiss with modesty, or blushing; / Lordly the husband embraces his wife, and often with a piercing kiss he kisses her cheeks, if it occurs to him.”. 133  Voß, Luise (1795), III, 117f. 134  Voß, Luise (1795), III, 134. 135  Voß, Luise (1795), III, 191. 136  Voß, Luise (1795), III, 210. 137  Voß, Luise (1795), III, 261. 138  Voß, Luise (1795), III, 270. 131


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which in its wording is at the same time a defence against this loss: “Vater und Mutter / Soll verlassen der Mensch, daß Mann und Weib sich vereinen” (“Father and mother / Shall man leave, that man and woman may unite”).139 With this, the priest literally collapses paternal and divine law into one; rhetorically, at the end of the soliloquy, he says: “Mutter, was sagst du? / Soll ich sie traun? Nicht besser ja ist der morgende Tag uns!” (“Mother, what sayest thou? / Shall I marry her? No better yes is the morrow us!”)140 The answer consists in a sensitive outpouring of tears from all involved: “laut weinte, die Händ’ auffaltend, die Mutter; / Laut auch weinte Luis’, und barg an dem Vater das Antlitz; / Auch der Bräutigam weint’; es weint’ Amalia seitwärts” (“aloud wept, unfolding her hands, the mother; / Aloud also wept Luis’, and bared her face to the father; / The bridegroom also wept’; it wept’ Amalia sideways.”)141 The priest’s monologue thus marks a moment whose before-the-­ wedding is already an after-the-wedding, or rather a moment that is also followed in regular wedding ceremonies by the acknowledgment of the marriage. And so the priest logically concludes by inquiring into the consensus: Walter answers “freudig” (“joyfully”), Luise “leise” (“quietly”), and only here do the full names of bride and groom fall once: Anna Luise Blum and Arnold Ludewig Walter. Then follows, once again in accordance with church order, a nuptial blessing: The priest lays his hand on the hands of the couple and performs the copulatio, the speaking together of the couple, with the central words taken from Matthew 19: “Euch hat der Vater im Himmel / Beide zusammengefügt; kein Mensch vermag euch zu scheiden” (“You the Father in heaven hath joined together / Both of you; no man is able to separate you.”)142 Voß even packs the blessing, which Luther introduced into the liturgy of worship, into three hexameters that make the wonderful amalgamation of biblical and Homeric foundational narratives in the German verse conspicuous: Segn’ und behüt’ euch der Herr! Der Herr erleuchte sein Antliz Gnädig euch! es erhebe der Herr sein Antliz, und geb’ euch Seinen Frieden allhier, und dort in Ewigkeit! Amen.143 The bride, in any case, is ‘frightened’ in the face of this ceremony involuntarily performed by her father. The father additionally instructs her that the marriage ceremony – although initiated by “Mädchenkünste” (“girlish arts”),144 as the priest

 Voß, Luise (1795), III, 295f. Cf. Genesis 2:24 (taken up again in Mt 19:5): “Therefore shall a man leave a father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh.”– Bible passages are quoted in this chapter according to The Holy Bible: King James Version. 140  Voß, Luise (1795), III, 305. 141  Voß, Luise (1795), III, 306–308. 142  Voß, Luise (1795), III, 340. 143  “Bless you and keep you, O Lord! May the Lord shine upon his countenance… / The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you… / His peace here, and there for ever and ever! Amen”. Voß, Luise (1795), III, 342. 144  Voß, Luise (1795), III, 382. 139

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says– has full legal validity:Richtig getraut, das bist du, mein Töchterchen! Wollte nunmehr dich Selber der Herr Generalsuperintendent aus den Formeln, Die dich verstrickt, loswinden; getrost antwortet’ ich also: Würdigster Herr Generalsuperintendent, ich verharre Voll Ergebenheit stets Ihr ganz gehorsamer Diener; Aber ich nehme mir doch die Erlaubnis, Sie zu versichern, Daß nach meinem Erachten die Kinderchen richtig getraut sind.145 In the fastidious matrimonial justification, it becomes apparent how opaque the motive for the early marriage ceremony remains in the text.146 Implausibly probable, the marriage ceremony in its formulaic literalness resembles an effet de réel (and thus all the other contemporary realist objects eaten, drunk, and consumed in Luise). The paradoxical event around which the text revolves is paternal incestuous self-­ empowerment by means of aesthetic overpowerment. The priest deprives the groom of the right of copulatio and deflowers her before the bridal night. It is the Countess who states this openly when she says: Du scheinst mir traurig, mein Töchterchen, daß du so plözlich [sic] Durch den bösen Papa den Kranz vom Haupte verlierest, Den, wie ein Rosenmädchen, du stets getragen mit Anstand.147 The semblance of right with which the usurpation of the pater familias is covered up arises from the polished verse of the Homer translator Voß, which may claim timeless validity. Thus it is no coincidence when the priest compares the future son-­ in-­ law, because he does not let his glass sound properly, with the “neuern / Dichterschwarm[s] ungeschlifne[n] Hexameter” (“newer / poet swarm[’s] unpolished hexameter”).148 In the female phantasmatic signifier ‘Luise’, the sterile male homosocial hexameter is to be made fruitful. If in the Iliad the warlike conquest, in the Odyssey the return home of the husband makes the hero, so in the Luise the symbolic marriage of female virginity with male versification. Voß consistently  “Well done, that’s you, my little daughter! Would that you were now… / Even the General Superintendent from the formulas, / That entangles thee, untwine; so confidently do I answer: / Most worthy General Superintendent, I remain… / Full of devotion always your completely obedient servant; / But I do take the liberty of insuring you, / That, in my opinion, the little children are properly trusted” Voß, Luise (1795), III, 386–392. 146  When the father of the house subsequently inquires of the ‘seventy-year-old weaver’, who has arrived to make music, about ‘objections against the wedding’ (Voß, Luise (1795), III, 747), he is still, in retrospect, pro forma invalidating the potential objection that the early wedding might have illegally undercut the deadline for filing marriage objections. 147  “You seem sad to me, my little daughter, / that you so suddenly [sic] / lost the wreath from your head because of your bad papa, / which, like a rose maiden, thou didst ever wear with propriety”. Voß, Luise (1795), III, 595–598. 148  Voß, Luise (1795), I, 528f. 145


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immortalizes in Luise not his own wife Ernestine or a daughter whom he might have liked to have had (besides his four sons), but his own poet’s voice. At the birthday party in the forest, a song is said to resound, “welchen im Frühling / Unser Freund in Eutin hier dichtete” (“which in spring / Our friend in Eutin wrote here”),149 and in the third idyll, self-referentially, there is explicit mention of the song “den unser Voß in Eutin uns / Dichtete!” (“which our Voß in Eutin / wrote for us!”)150 The priest encourages Luise to sing at the birthday party in the forest, but significantly does not let her sing alone: “Jener sprachs; da begann mit steigender Röthe die Jungfrau / Sanft den Gesang; ihn verstärkte, mit Macht einstimmend, der Vater” (“He spoke it; then with rising redness the maiden / Gently began the song; it was amplified, with power, by the father”).151 Luise has a voice, but it is declared too weak to sound alone. “Nicht zu heiß dich gesungen, mein Töchterchen! Alles mit Maße” (“Not too hot thee sung, my little daughter! All with measures”),152 the mother admonishes her, just before the bridal night, of all things.153 The various titles for the third idyll reflect the increasing centrality and precariousness of the Voßian ‘wedding’: in the first print (in the Teutschen Merkur) of 1794 it still appears, significantly, under the heading “Luise. An Schulz”– that is Voß’ composer friend, who is also mentioned several times in the Luise. In the first printing of 1795, the last idyll is then called “Der Brautabend” (“The Bridal Shower“); only the so-called completed edition of 1807 finally makes it “Die Vermählung” (“The Marriage”)– of patriarchal right and female virginity.154

From Dressing Gown … Voß’s Luise is unfortunately never read as a work in progress.155 Between the publication of the individual idylls in periodical form in 1783/1784 and the so-called “completed edition” in 1807 lie the French Revolution, the secularization of the  Voß, Luise (1795), I, 384f.  Voß, Luise (1795), III, 616f. 151  Voß, Luise (1795), I, 388f. 152  Voß, Luise (1795), III, 836. 153  Riedl, “Hochzeit in der literarischen Idylle,” p.682, points out that Luise– in contrast to the baroque Lisille– has a voice of her own, but does not pursue this aspect further. 154  Cornelia Vismann writes about a sub-ritorial ‘marriage’ of law and beauty: “It is tempting to think of this sub-ritorial beginning of law in harmony as a beginning before that of the violence of law.” (Das Schöne am Recht, Berlin: Merve 2012, p.38)– The (marriage) law deployed in the Luise is admittedly neither placeless nor nameless with the priest of Grünau … 155  The reason for this is the (in my opinion) incorrect decision to restore the first book version of 1795 as ‘historically effective’ and ‘aesthetically most successful’. This begins, as far as I can see, with Helmut J.Schneider, who in his anthology refers to the 1795 edition for the reprinting of the first idyll and points out in his epilogue: “Die Luise wird von Fassung zu Fassung aufgeschwellt […].” (“Die sanfte Utopie,” in: id. (ed.), Idyllen der Deutschen, Frankfurt a. M.: Insel 1978, p.399.) Cf. further Böschenstein, Idylle, p.101; Stagl, “Vossens Luise als patriotische Tugendlehre,” p.103f. 149 150

4.3  Herrmann und Dorothea: Epic Disguise


diocese of Lübeck, to which Eutin belonged, but also Goethe’s bourgeois idyll Herrmann und Dorothea, which not only does without noble characters, but also deprives the priest of his primacy. The comparison of the two texts which is often made overlooks a fragile process of legitimation that makes the sacralized instance of enlightenment in the text and in the paratext increasingly questionable. To the ‘completed’ edition of 1807, Voß adds an annotation apparatus consisting of botanical and economic explanations of the fruit and vegetable inventory mentioned in the text, but also of philological-etymological additions that make the text appear to be in need of and worthy of interpretation. He monumentalizes his text– not without success, since the new edition of the text was accompanied by numerous reviews that emphasized above all the moral and educational value of the idyll.156 On the other hand, the text works through the problematic alliance of girls on which the overpowering of the pater familias is based. On the textual surface, Luise enacts a model according to which paternal power owes itself to female submission. This is evident intertextually in the Old Testament patronage under which Walter and Luise are placed at the end of the idylls. Jacob and Rachel at the Well shows the “eichene Lade” (“oaken chest”) from which the mother packs the bedding for the wedding. From it, moreover, is taken the “stattliche Bräutigamsschlafrock, / Fein von Kattun, kleeröthlich, mit farbigen Blumen gesprenkelt” (“stately bridegroom’s dressing-­ gown, / Fine of calico, clover-reddish, speckled with colored flowers”),157 which Goethe will put into further circulation in Herrmann und Dorothea. Rachel is the younger and more beautiful sister of Leah, whom Jacob wants to marry and whose maternal right remains extremely ambivalent in the Old Testament narrative (Genesis 28–29). The daughters’ father, Laban, initially decrees that Jacob (according to current law) should marry the eldest daughter, Leah; it is only because of his persistence that Jacob is given Rachel as his second– and preferred– wife years later. Rachel pays for the preference with a double misfortune: she remains barren for many years and loses her life while giving birth to her second son. “ Als ihr aber das Leben entwich und sie sterben musste, nannte sie ihn Ben-Oni, aber sein Vater nannte ihn Ben-Jamin” (“But when life escaped her and she had to die, she named him Ben-Oni, but his father named him Ben-Jamin”), we are told in Genesis 35:18.158 In this respect, Rachel-Luise embodies the figure of a mother who sacrifices herself with her death for the patrilineal genealogy. Now, interestingly, in the course of reworking the text, Voß deepens the biblical reference to Rachel, thus bringing Luise’s virginal innocence and her sisterly relationship with the noble Amalia into a moral twilight. In Luise, the count’s daughter Amalia is a daughter  One praises in the revision “the high law of decency, of the decent”. The reviewer of the Zeitung für die elegante Welt recommends for education and refinement of manners a comparative reading of the versions in the “higher schools” ([Review of:] “Voßens Luise”, Zeitung für die elegante Welt 8/5 (1808), sp. 33–38; here: Sp. 34 f. – The audience divides into a pro-Vossian, classicist-­ patriarchal-­ Enlightenment faction (Gleim) and a pro-Goethean, romantic-progressive-­ Enlightenment-­critical faction (Schlegel, Humboldt). 157  Voß, Luise (1795), III, 872f. 158  Concerning the names Ben-Oni and Ben-Jamin the commentary of the Luther Bible notes: “i.e. son of my misfortune and son of fortune respectively”. 156


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who, like the firstborn daughter Leah, is to be dethroned in favor of Luise.159 She embodies the aristocratic, seductive right of beauty, which is to be transferred to Luise.160 In the second idyll, Amalia not only has the idea of adorning the bride for trial, she also brings the bridegroom’s jewellery in the form of a magnificent gown: Einen Talar voll Würde, zur Festsamarie, bring’ ich, Schön, von gewässertem Taft, mit eigenen Händen genähet; Zwölf Halstücher und Hemd’, und zwölf brabantische Befchen.161 Only in the late version does it become a garment sewn by herself, which could only succeed so well for her as a “Laiin” (“laywoman”) because Luise supported her complicitly: “Heimlich stahl mir Luise das Vorbild aus dem Gewandschrank / Ihres Papa’s, wie Rahel die häuslichen Götter des Laban” (“Secretly Luise stole for me the model from / Her papa’s wardrobe, like Rachel the domestic gods of Laban”).162 The patriarchal paradise is disrupted by imputing to Amalia and Luise together that theft of gods which, according to the biblical text, Rachel alone commits and whose genealogical function has traditionally puzzled expositors.163 Voß’s seemingly clear division of femininity into a false, contrived one (Amalia’s cunning) and a proper, bourgeois-domesticated one (Luise’s virginity) is disrupted in a female alliance now imputed to subvert male authority. It is also revealing in this regard that Luise is still the only child of the priest in the early version of the text, while later she is made the only surviving daughter and, in a sense, a substitute for male succession.164 In the text, the taffeta gown donated by Amalia will admittedly prevail neither against the famous dressing gown with which the parson of Grünau

 Luther describes the relationship between Rachel and Leah as a typological one: Leah embodies the outward, Rachel the inward, believing human being. Cf. Sabine Hiebsch, Figura ecclesiae: Lea und Rahel in Martin Luther’s Sermons on Genesis, Münster: LIT 2002. 160  In his review of Voß’s Musenalmanach für das Jahr 1776, Wieland criticizes a clichéd resentment of the nobility among Voß and his friends: “These gentlemen wish so much that the Teutsche Muse, as a housewife, would finally displace the Gallic maid at court.” Cf. Christoph Martin Wieland, [review:] “Musenalmanach für das Jahr 1776”, Der Teutsche Merkur vom Jahr 1776, Jänner. 1776, pp.85–89; quoted in: Voß, Ausgewählte Werke, ed. Hummel, p.368. 161  “A gown of dignity, for a feast I’ll bring, / Beautiful, of watered taffeta, sewn with their own hands; / Twelve kerchiefs and shirts, and twelve Brabantish Bands”. Voß, Luise (1807), II, 434–436. 162  Voß, Luise (1807), II, 439f. 163  Jacob flees with his family from the unjust uncle and father-in-law Laban. Without Jacob’s knowledge, Rachel steals the father’s private shrine and takes it with her on the run. The enraged father pursues the fugitives and wants the loot back. Rachel manages to keep the idols undiscovered by using her femininity (her menstruation) as a ruse: “Now Rachel had taken the household god and put it under the camel’s saddle and sat on it. But Laban felt the whole tent, and found nothing. Then said she unto her father, My lord, be not angry: for I cannot rise up before thee, because it goeth to me after the manner of women. Therefore he found not the household god, how much soever he sought.” (Genesis 31:34f.)– Luther himself is undecided in his commentary and asks, “wheather it was handled correctly.” Cf. Hiebsch, Figura Ecclesiae, pp.181–183. 164  Cf. Voß, Luise (1795), III, 281. 159

4.3  Herrmann und Dorothea: Epic Disguise


is introduced “hausväterlich prangend” (“resplendent as a paterfamilias”),165 nor against the groom’s dressing gown presented by the mother. Voß underlines this in an explanatory note, in which the samarie is explained as the clergyman’s official dress and former “langes, von den Persern, wahrscheinlich in den Kreuzzügen, entlehntes Weibergewand” (“long robe of women borrowed from the Persians, probably in the Crusades”).166 Amalia makes the splendid (and hated) robe of office a gift to Walter, who has just taken up his first pastorate, under the “Beding’” (“condition”) “dass er den Schmuck anleg’, um recht amtsmäßig und ehrbar / Auszusehn” (“that he put on the ornament, to look quite officious and respectable”).167 But the motif is not continued; the second idyll ends with Luise rushing out of her chamber and falling into Walter’s arms. Instead, it seems to foreshadow the “Vermählung” (“marriage”), in which it is not Walter who is ‘officiously’ adorned by Amalia, but Luise, who is ‘bridefully’ adorned. Amalia’s compelling appearance in the second idyll seems like an alliance in which the father, boldly, Homerically outdoing Amalia’s cunning, continues to set the tone.168 In the pipe smoke (lit by Amalia), the priest becomes a “Herrscher im Donnergewölk Zeus” (“ruler in the thunderclouds of Zeus”),169 who breathes Greek spirit through the Turkish pipe and delivers a long monologue that culminates in the anticipation of a courageously trusting “Kraftwort” (“swearword”): “Ob den Gebrauch die Agend’ anordnete, oder wir selber / Nach dem Bedarf, vorsichtig dem Heiligen Schönes vermählend” (“Whether the agenda ordered the use, or we ourselves / According to the need, carefully marrying the sacred beauty”).170 Thus Amalia’s gift literally evaporates in an cloud that masculinely– empoweringly, less carefully than authoritatively– marries the sacred to the beautiful. In reviewing the second idyll, Voß seems to have had doubts overall, including, apparently, whether the title “Der Besuch” (“The Visit”) could possibly refer less to that of the bridegroom than to that of Amalia with her gift, which replaces Luise’s presence in the idyll. In the grammatically striking phrase “Denn ihn gilt der Besuch doch eigentlich” (“For it is he whom the visit is really for”),171 the 1795 version keeps the mother Amalia from greeting Luise first in the chamber– before Walter in the parlour– after her arrival. As of the printing of 1801, the turn of phrase is already worth an explanation for the author: “Gelten für betreffen erfordert den vierten Fall: es gilt mein Leben, es gilt mich. Ein anderes ist: die Entschuldigung gilt mir, statt, ich lasse sie gelten. Unsere besten Schriftsteller  Voß, Luise (1807), I, 5.  Voß, Luise (1807), p.343. 167  Voß, Luise (1807), II, 444–446. 168  Amalia remains in the paradoxical role of seductress and ally. The handover is strangely ambiguous: Amalia presents the gift to an “astonished” and “ashamed” Walter, “and earnestly declares’ the shrouded secret, / With Papa’s applause announcing what was in store for him” (Voß, Luise (1807), II, 456–58). The father seems to agree with Amalia’s idea that Walter must put on the new robe for his festive visiting day. 169  Voß, Luise (1807), II, 475. 170  Voß, Luise (1807), II, 425f. 171  Voß, Luise (1795), II, 240. 165 166


4 Between Märchen andNovel: Goethe’s Marriage Experiments

erwogen diesen Unterschied nicht immer.” (“‘Gelten’ meaning ‘concerning’ requires the accusative case: es gilt mein Leben, es gilt mich [it concerns my life, it concerns me]. Another thing is: die Entschuldigung gilt mir [the apology is for me], instead of, ich lasse sie gelten [I let it apply]. Our best writers did not always consider this distinction.”).172 In the annotation apparatus of 1807, this becomes a five-­ page philological commentary on the lexeme ‘gelten’, apparently intended solely to prevent the misunderstanding that the authority and official dignity of the groom might be owed to a gift of female nobility.173 Again, the text attempts to deal with the dilemma posed by the disciplining of female influence. Finally, the fact that the patriarchal “Kraftwort” (“swearword”) calls the idyll as a whole into question is shown by the captious progression of Luise’s reaction to the early wedding. In the early version, Luise gives an epic cue with her father’s “Zorn” (“wrath”). Vater, du böser Vater! dein Töchterchen so zu erschrecken! War das recht? Ich komme so ganz unschuldig und arglos, Und vermut’ in der Welt nichts weniger, als die Hochzeit! Aber mit einmal geräth er in Zorn; und eh ich mich umseh, Bin ich getraut! Du solltest doch Scherz verstehen, mein Vater!174 Was the anger “recht” (“right”)? In the early version of 1795, the question remains open, Luise’s exclamation uncommented; later Voß has the father reply in epic address: “Drauf antwortetest du, ehrwürdiger Pfarrer von Grünau! / Töchterchen, lass gut seyn! Mir entfuhr in der Hizze die Unbill!” (“To which you replied, venerable priest of Grünau! / Daughter, let it be well! I escaped in the heat of the unfairness!”)175 Not only does anger become in need of legitimation, but Voß also wants to ‘idyllize’ it etymologically at the same time by distinguishing it from factually justified anger in a footnote: “Zorn für Eifer und heftige Aufwallung, wie das griechische οϱγή” (“Wrath for zeal and violent uproar, like the Greek οϱγή”).176 Excused as affective uncontrollability, however, it also reveals its ‘orgiastic’ and erotic connotation. And even with the term ‘unbill’ the philologist only stumbles into the next trap – the term again seems to need explanation in a note: ‘unbill’  Johann Heinrich Voß, Luise. Ein ländliches Gedicht in drei Idyllen, Königsberg: Nicolovius 1801, p.138. 173  Voß, Luise (1807), pp.337–342– The last edition of 1823 retains the overlong commentary, although the grammatically untypical accusative is resolved into: “Denn ihm gilt der Besuch doch eigentlich” (“Because the visit actually concerned him”) (Johann Heinrich Voß, Luise. Ein ländliches Gedicht in drei Idyllen. Auswahl der lezten [sic] Hand, Königsberg: Universitätsbuchhandlung 1823, II, 422; p. 140). The commentary thus becomes, if not superfluous, then almost incomprehensible. 174  Voß, Luise (1795), III, 409–413. 175  “Father, you wicked father! To frighten your little daughter like that! / Was that right? I come so innocently and guilelessly, / And suspect nothing less in the world than marriage! / But all at once he rages, and ere I look round…, / I did! You’re supposed to be kidding, my father!” Voß, Luise (1807), III, 499f. 176  Voß, Luise (1807), p.347. 172

4.3  Herrmann und Dorothea: Epic Disguise


means ‘unfairness’. “Ein anderes ist das Unbild, wodurch etwas unförmiges, verkehrtes, seltsames, Misshandlung, Unthat, bezeichnet wird” (“Another is Unbild, by which something misshapen, perverse, strange, ill-treatment, is denoted”).177 Grimm’s dictionary also refers to the double etymology ‘Unbild’, deformitas, eidolon [!] on the one hand and ‘Unbilligkeit’, injustice, unfairness on the other. When Voß tries to contain the meaning of the paternal ‘Unbill’ as moral-legal, he at the same time exposes the fact that the father deforms the idyll sensually-objectively, aesthetically, and turns it into an incestuous ‘Unbild’.

… toRevolution The “stattliche Bräutigamsschlafrock, / Fein von Kattun, kleeröthlich, mit farbigen Blumen gesprenkelt” (“stately bridegroom’s dressing gown, / Fine of calico, small reddish, speckled with colored flowers”) chosen for Walter178 guarantees patrilinearity in Luise beyond the genealogical break created by the missing son. Goethe has recognized the fetishistic potential of this dressing gown and makes it the starting point of his epic experiment: as the refugee train passes the tranquil little town, the wife of the innkeeper at the Golden Lion packs up among other ‘fabric’ “besonders den Schlafrock, mit indianischen Blumen, / Von dem feinsten Kattun, mit feinem Flanelle gefüttert” (“especially the dressing gown, with Indian flowers, / Of the finest calico, lined with fine flannel.”) It has gone out of fashion and offers itself as a clothing donation.179 Fatefully, in the first canto, entitled “Calliope. Schicksal und Anteil” (“Fate and Share”), he sets in motion an epic event, for because the mother rummages around for so long, Herrmann, who is sent off with the gifts, only encounters the rearguard of the refugees– and thus first of all the wagon led by Dorothea and drawn by two oxen. On it is a woman who has just given birth, with a naked baby in her arms which Dorothea had just delivered. The sleeping gown comes like a miracle, like a gift from God, which Dorothea herself bears in her name. She thanks him with the words: “der Glückliche glaubt nicht, / Daß noch Wunder geschehen; denn nur im Elend erkennt man / Gottes Hand und Finger, der gute Menschen zum Guten / Leitet. Was er durch Euch an uns tut, tu’ er Euch selber” (“The happy one does not believe / That miracles still happen; for only in misery do we recognize / God’s hand and finger, who guides / Good people to good. What he does to us through you, he does to you himself.”) (HD II, 50–53) And with that, the dressing gown, mentioned four times up to this point, takes its leave of Goethe’s text. It now clothes a foreign, homeless family. But will Dorothea really be the  Voß, Luise (1807), p.347.  Voß, Luise (1795), III, 872f. 179  Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Herrmann und Dorothea, I.Gesang, vv. 29–30. Hereafter– with the sigle HD, Gesang- und Versangabe– quoted directly in the text according to the edition: Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Werther. Wahlverwandtschaften. Kleine Prosa. Epen, ed. Waltraud Wiethölter, (= vol. 8 of the Frankfurt edition), Frankfurt a. M.: Deutscher Klassiker Verlag im Taschenbuch 2006 (1994), pp.807–883. 177 178


4 Between Märchen andNovel: Goethe’s Marriage Experiments

counter-gift for Herrmann’s gift of the sleeping skirt? What rupture does the abandonment of Vossen’s insignia of patrilineality signify? What kind of succession does Herrmann take on with Dorothea’s ‘gift’?180 Goethe, while retaining the ‘marriage’ as a conflict-resolving moment, modifies the Vossian family constellation in programmatic aspects: Just as Luise is the only surviving child of the priest, Herrmann remains the only son for the host family after the loss of a daughter (cf. HD VII, 66). He expands the core family cosmos of Grünau with a clerical centre, which is demarcated by the nobility, into a small town on the right bank of the Rhine with a bourgeois centre, which deals with revolutionary world politics in the guise of collective courtship. We learn nothing about Dorothea’s family, just as with Walter’s; the clincher, of course, will be that she is no longer a ‘proper’ virgin, but was once engaged to a revolutionary supporter. Unlike Walter, she belongs neither to the neighbourhood nor to the bourgeoisie; she is a maid and comes from the ‘Left Rhineland’, from the German border region that has been occupied by the revolutionaries. Herrmann, displeasing his father, wishes to marry exogamously and below his rank. Unlike in Luise, where paternal-spiritual right is to be asserted, as it were, with united family forces (i.e. an obedient mother and a somewhat insolent daughter) against the power of the nobility, in Herrmann und Dorothea it is not a question of the landlord-father’s simple defence against the revolution or the false daughter-in-law, but of a relativization (or: equilibration) of views that are not conditioned by class but by politics (but are all ‘bourgeois’).181 In Voß, the family conflict arises from an aristocratic outside, from the sneaking in of a second daughter, named Amalia. In Goethe, the conflict is inherent in the nuclear family as a conflict between father and son, and it is doubled, as we will return to in a moment, in the question of a ‘revolutionary’ marriage: with Dorothea, revolution threatens in its images as terrible as they are beautiful. Herrmann’s father stands for bourgeois economic advancement: he wants his son to bring home a “Braut mit schöner Mitgift” (“bride with a beautiful dowry”) (HD II, 170), for only economic equality guarantees a stable relationship between the unequal sexes: “Nur wohl ausgestattet möcht’ ich im Hause die Braut sehn; / Denn die Arme wird doch nur zuletzt vom Manne verachtet, / Und er hält sie als Magd, die als Magd mit dem Bündel hereinkam” (“Only well endowed would I like to see the bride in the house; / For the poor is only despised by the man at last, / And he keeps her as a maid who came in as a maid with the bundle”) (HD II, 183–185). His view is not limited to the

 On the observation of the donation of clothes as an initial moment of the epic, cf. already Hans Geulen, “Goethes Hermann und Dorothea. Zur Problematik und inneren Genese des epischen Gedichts’”, Jahrbuch des Freien Deutschen Hochstifts (1983), 1–20; here: p.4. Steiner speaks of the canvas as the secret subject of Goethe’s epic’ (cf. “‘Gespenstische Gegenständlichkeit’”). Although I largely follow him in his subtle reflections, I conclude that Herrmann and Dorothea prevail against the white canvas (unfortunately, still and presumably unlike in Stifter’s Limestone) as protagonists. 181  Above all, Eibl, “Anamnesis des ‘Augenblicks’,” emphasizes the conversation and consensus symbolized in the couple relationship. 180

4.3  Herrmann und Dorothea: Epic Disguise


preservation of the status quo, but aims at improvement.182 He reproaches the son, who has failed in his courtship of one of the rich neighbor’s daughters, for “not wanting to go higher” (“nicht höher hinauf will”) (HD II, 255). Herrmann is to become “ nicht gleich […], sondern ein Beßrer” (“not like him […], but a better”), which, turned into something political, leads to the maxim of a “Lust zu erhalten und zu erneuen” (“desire to maintain and renew”) (cf. HD III, 5 and 7). This is precisely the core of the conflict that the small society– triggered by the coincidence of revolutionary and bridal encounter– discusses and, in a collective, not to say epic effort, does not resolve, but banishes in the couple’s reunion. Herrmann’s and Dorothea’s betrothal speeches, with which the text ends in the ninth and final canto, entitled “Urania. Aussicht” (“Urania. Prospect”), do not so much end as break off, expressing once again the opposition to ‘renewing’ and ‘preserving’, to reshaping (cf. HD IX, 262–277) and “halten und dauern” (“holding and lasting”) (HD IX, 300). Whereas in Luise Voß compensates for ‘the flight of time in the microcosm of objects’183 and makes the sleeping skirt the phantasm of an eternal, idyllic marital order, in Herrmann und Dorothea Goethe encounters a revolutionarily intensified and accelerated social conflict with the reification of the couple. What is staged in the narrative as a ‘surprise wedding’ is a national couple phantasm that escamotizes its legitimacy by poetic means. In Herrmann und Dorothea, it is not a ‘marriage’ that takes place at the end, but an engagement, whereby the supposedly closed end becomes an open beginning again, or with Goethe: whereby ‘towards its end the poem leans completely towards its idyllic origin’.184 Thus, in the course of the revolutionary upheavals, the dressing gown which was given away is replaced by engagement rings, which are exchanged at the end. However, the fact that the founding function is not actually attributed to the couple, but only to their education, is shown by the fact that not two, but three engagement rings are involved. When Dorothea is led home on the evening of the memorable Sunday and the priest puts the engagement ring on her, the ring of the first bridegroom is discovered, delaying the moment of betrothal for the last time. In the end, Herrmann receives not only Dorothea herself for his donation of clothes, but also an additional ring, which perhaps stands for a previous, first and unsustainable love, and whose re-attainability remains in the balance. While not an economic added value of marriage, as the father would have wished, it is the symbolic added value of companionship, reminding her that it is based on exclusion. The engagement ring is the symbol of the origin of an idyllic, unthinkable community, which the narrative can only supplement through dissimulation, its title in the ‘and’ between Herrmann and Dorothea, and the individual cantos in their ‘double titles’.  Cf. Stefan Willer, “Zur literarischen Epistemologie der Zukunft”, in: Nicola Gess, Sandra Janßen (eds.), Wissensordnungen. Zu einer historischen Epistemologie der Literatur, Berlin/ Boston: De Gruyter 2014, pp.224–260; here: p.246f., who relates the concept of the host to the modern concept of sustainability. 183  Steiner, “‘Ghostly Representationalism,’” p.633. 184  Goethe to Schiller. 4 March 1797; quoted in: Goethe, Werther. Wahlverwandtschaften. Kleine Prosa. Epen, ed. Waltraud Wiethölter, p.1200. 182


4 Between Märchen andNovel: Goethe’s Marriage Experiments

Marriage ofLove andRevolution The innkeeper’s father is not a citizen of the world, but of a small town. He does not want to see the misery of the refugees; “Neugier” (“curiosity”) (HD I, 4) is not his. The ‘married couple’ remain seated on the bench in front of the house, and after the heat of the day and the tales of the priest and apothecary get to them, the innkeeper suggests the famous retreat to the “kühlere Sälchen” (“cooler little room”) (HD I, 160), where, however, a pre-revolutionary wine and the insects buzzing around ‘Romans’ only allude all the more forcefully to the supposedly excluded and threatening present (cf. HD I, 159–170). Driven by a preoccupation in which political and private motives become blurred, the innkeeper, over his glass of ‘genuine Rhine wine’, displaces the revolution by imagining the coincidence in time of an imminent peace treaty with his son’s wedding: Müde schon sind die Streiter, und alles deutet auf Frieden. Möge doch auch, wenn das Fest, das lang’ erwünschte, gefeiert Wird, in unserer Kirche, die Glocke dann tönt zu der Orgel, Und die Trompete schmettert, das hohe Te Deum begleitend, – Möge mein Herrmann doch auch an diesem Tage, Herr Pfarrer, Mit der Braut, entschlossen, vor Euch, am Altare, sich stellen, Und das glückliche Fest, in allen Landen begangen, Auch mir künftig erscheinen, der häuslichen Freuden ein Jahrstag! (HD I, 198–205) Analogous to the mother, who virtually initiates the epic action, the father anticipates its end at the end of the expository first canto: Herrmann’s and the text’s last word will be ‘peace’ (albeit in subjunctive form). The analogy of peace and marriage reveals the formal law of retardation which Goethe, in communication with Schiller, identifies as a characteristic of epic poetry. The rhapsode, we are told in Über epische und dramatische Dichtung (On Epic and Dramatic Poetry), “wird nach Belieben rückwärts und vorwärts greifen und wandeln, man wird ihm überall folgen, denn er hat es nur mit der Einbildungskraft zu tun, die sich ihre Bilder selbst hervorbringt, und der es auf einen gewissen Grad gleichgültig ist, was für welche sie aufruft” (“will reach and wander backwards and forwards at will, one will follow him everywhere, for he has only to do with the imagination, which produces its own images, and to which it is indifferent to a certain extent what kind it calls up.”)185 The father’s diffuse premonition of peace not only heralds the son’s happy union, it suggests at the same time that in it may lie the deeper meaning of a political conclusion of peace. What is at stake, then, is the image of a coincidence of the conclusion of peace and a wedding feast, which the rhapsode develops epically-narratively and which becomes more and more condensed in the monumentalized

 Schiller/Goethe, Über epische und dramatische Dichtung, in Schiller, Werke und Briefe, vol. 8, ed. Otto Dann etal., pp.1085–1087; here: p.1087. 185

4.3  Herrmann und Dorothea: Epic Disguise


protagonist-­couple. The door through which Herrmann and Dorothea enter the inn in the final canto is literally too small: Aber die Tür’ ging auf. Es zeigte das herrliche Paar sich, Und es erstaunten die Freunde, die liebenden Eltern erstaunten Über die Bildung der Braut, des Bräutigams Bildung vergleichbar; Ja, es schien die Türe zu klein, die hohen Gestalten Einzulassen, die nun zusammen betraten die Schwelle.186 (HD IX, 55–60) It seems as if the two have come directly from the church, where they have just been married, accompanied by a Te Deum. In fact, the betrothal, complete with final entanglements, is yet to take place, and throughout the text there is neither a conclusion of peace nor a wedding feast. But the analogy, one might say, is the general image for which the couple must answer, and whose ‘formation’ the rhapsode has undertaken. When the various characters in the text speak of marriage and/or revolution, it is always about a tautological overcoming of contingency through the contingent. Leitmotivally, the analogy of social crisis and marriage is not only taken up by various characters in the text, but is also used as an allegorical device to express a different attitude towards the events of revolution by each member of the micro-society. “Weil das Gute in der Moderne ohne das Böse nicht mehr zu haben scheint, bildet der Kerngedanke der Theodizee, die Figur des Bonum durch Malum, ein ironisches Leitmotiv des Epos” (“Because good in modernity seems to be unavailable without evil, the core idea of theodicy, the figure of bonum through malum forms an ironic leitmotif of the epic,”)187 notes Uwe Steiner. He rightly formulates cautiously: ‘no longer seems to have’ and refers in a footnote to the sixth canto, where the judge of the exile community turns the figure “vom revolutionären Malum durch Bonum” (“of the revolutionary Malum through Bonum”)188 around with his revolution-­ affirmative statements. As the ‘fairest hope’ (HD VI, 5), in fact, the judge praises the lost origin of the revolution in conversation with the priest who, together with the apothecary, has been sent to examine the bride: Denn wer leugnet es wohl, daß hoch sich das Herz ihm erhoben, Ihm die freiere Brust mit reineren Pulsen geschlagen, Als sich der erste Glanz der neuen Sonne heranhob, Als man hörte vom Rechte der Menschen, das allen gemein sei,

 “But the door opened. The glorious couple showed themselves, / And it astonished the friends, the loving parents astonished / About the edification of the bride, the groom’s edification comparable; / Yes, it seemed the door was too small, the tall figures / To let in, who now together entered the threshold.” 187  Steiner, “‘Ghostly Representationalism,’” p.637. 188  Ibid. 186


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Von der begeisternden Freiheit und von der löblichen Gleichheit!189 (HD VI, 6–10) One has seen in these words of the judge an exceptionally positive assessment of the revolutionary awakening for Goethe, an opponent of the revolution.190 In religious vocabulary, the leader of the refugee group,191 himself stylized as a religious Old Testament legislator, praises the revolutionary ideals as a Pentecostal event– “[d]a war jedem die Zunge gelös’t” (“everyone’s tongue was loosened there”) (HD VI, 38)– which was only distorted by a “verderbtes Geschlecht” (“depraved generation”) that, instead of creating the good, began to court “Herrschaft” (“dominion”) (cf. HD VI, 40f.). The power of liberation invoked by the judge is metaphorically short-circuited with the transformation that seizes Herrmann after his first encounter with Dorothea, and which the sharp-eyed priest also immediately recognizes upon his return: “Kommt Ihr doch als ein veränderter Mensch!” (“Come ye yet as a changed man!”) (HD II, 6). And even before the priest, who has been sent out as a suitor, encounters the judge in the sixth canto, the father, again only half-knowing, notices a ‘Pentecostal’ transformation in his boy: “Wie ist, o Sohn, dir die Zunge gelös’t” (“How is, O son, thy tongue loosed”) (HD V, 109). Whereas in the father, who only half understands everything, the analogy of peace and marriage primarily articulates a private wish, the judge uses it to introduce a subtle difference in the evaluation of the revolution: O, wie froh ist die Zeit, wenn mit der Braut sich der Bräut’gam Schwinget im Tanze, den Tag der gewünschten Verbindung erwartend! Aber herrlicher war die Zeit, in der uns das Höchste, Was der Mensch sich denkt, als nah und erreichbar sich zeigte. Da war jedem die Zunge gelös’t; es sprachen die Greise, Männer und Jünglinge laut voll hohen Sinns und Gefühles.192 (HD VI, 34–39) He does not, like his father, compare the end of the Revolutionary War to a wedding day, but the beginning of the Revolution to the dance of betrothed couples before they enter into marriage. “Terpsichore. Herrmann”– the muse of the dance paired with the epic’s male protagonist– is tellingly the title of the second canto, in  “For who can deny that his heart is lifted high? / Beating him the freer breast with purer pulses, / As the first glow of the new sun approached, / When one heard of the rights of men, which were common to all, / Of inspiring liberty and of praiseworthy equality!” 190  Cf. in particular Gerhard Kaiser, “Französische Revolution und deutsche Hexameter. Goethes Hermann und Dorothea nach 200 Jahren. Ein Vortrag”, Poetica 30 (1998), 81–97; here: 87f. 191  Cf. the priest in V, 223–227: “Tell me, father, you are surely the judge of these / Fugitive men, who immediately calm the minds? / Yes, you appear to me today as one of the oldest leaders, / Leading peoples driven through deserts and madness, / Just now I think I’m talking to Joshua or to Moses.” 192  “O, how happy is the time when with the bride the bride’gam / Swing in the dance, awaiting the day of the desired union! / But more glorious was the time when the highest.., / What man thinks of as near and attainable showed itself. / Then was every man’s tongue loosed; and the old men spake, / Men and young men aloud full of high sense and feeling.” 189

4.3  Herrmann und Dorothea: Epic Disguise


which the ‘transformed’ Herrmann returns from his charitable outing. A new ‘betrothal dance’ of the one who had disgraced himself with the rich neighbouring girls at the music of the Magic Flute would thus begin for Herrmann with his encounter with Dorothea.193 The judge, however, presumably in contrast to the citizens of the nameless small town, leaves it at the comparison: the time of the engagement is only comparable to the even more ‘glorious time’ of revolutionary-Pentecostal revelation, it cannot replace it. Only marriage would be the appropriate metaphor for the paradox of an ongoing, legally hemmed-in ‘marriage’, but the problem of the ‘depraved’ generation of revolutionaries, the judge continues, is that they destroyed the law: […] Das wütende Tier ist ein besserer Anblick. Sprech’ er doch nie von Freiheit, als könn’ er sich selber regieren! Losgebunden erscheint, sobald die Schranken hinweg sind, Alles Böse, das tief das Gesetz in die Winkel zurücktrieb.194 (HD VI, 77–80) Marriage and the justification of laws thus become equally paradoxical founding events that presuppose what they are supposed to justify. In this point, as Kristina Mendicino also points out, Goethe meets Rousseau.195 Now, while the ‘little parallel stories’ of Ausgewanderten make marriage and the law break down again and again because of the passions, Goethe makes and attempt at the love revolution in the ‘big parallel story’ of Herrmann und Dorothea. Symptomatically, the concept of passion, which is dropped countless times in Unterhaltungen and is always declared to be the trigger of evil, never appears in Herrmann und Dorothea.196 The love encounter of these protagonists seems to include passion, but only ever in an analogical capacity. What is decisive is not their encounters, their conversations, their flirtation, or even their expressions of love. What is always decisive is the social meaning attached to this encounter by all involved. The last word in the evaluation of this meaning – with the two final speeches – is given by the couple themselves,  How broken this dance is is shown by Kristina Mendicino, “Break-Dance. (Ein Schritt von Homer und Rousseau zu Goethe),” in Christian Moser, Linda Simonis (eds.), Figures of the Global. Weltbezug und Welterzeugung in Literatur, Kunst und Medien, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 2014, pp.302–313. 194  “[…] The angry animal is a better sight. / He never speaks of freedom as if he could rule himself! / Unbound appears as soon as the barriers are gone, / All evil that deep the law drove back into the corners.” 195  Cf. Ibid., p.304: “The celebration of the free republic and the festive dance of future spouses come together again in Goethe’s Herrmann und Dorothea (1797)– a hexametric epic that, like the dances of Rousseau and Hephaestus, is at once idyllic and warlike: on the one hand, it deals with Herrmann and Dorothea’s engagement, and on the other, with the war sparked by the French Revolution that leads to the couple’s first meeting (and threatens the possibility of a stable married life).” 196  With the exception of the phrase “[l]eidenschaftlich Geschrei” (“passionate shouting”) (HD IX, 193), which the father uses ironically just after Dorothea’s tearful confession of love to express his annoyance. 193


4 Between Märchen andNovel: Goethe’s Marriage Experiments

interestingly enough not by the legal authority of the text, the ‘judge’, who stands as the head of a placeless and nameless community between the communities, be they German or French, friends or enemies. The legal authority, of all people, has– similar to Mittler in the novel Wahlverwandtschaften – only “Glück und Zufall” (“luck and chance”) (HD VII, 180) to offer as final advice. This, at least, is suggested by the final, prophetic words that the judge gives Herrmann in the seventh canto: ‘He who acquires only one thing, cattle, horses, or sheep, tests for ‘exchange and trade’; he who, on the other hand, takes up ‘man’, on whom ‘everything’ depends, exposes himself to contingency, “Glück und Zufall” (“luck and chance”). This is precisely what Herrmann does, for which he praises him and prophesies, not the renewal of the entire small town, but that of the family: “so lang’ sie [Dorothea; D. S.] der Wirtschaft sich annimmt” (“as long as she [Dorothea; D.S.] takes care of the household”), he will “[n]icht die Schwester vermissen, noch Eure Eltern die Tochter” ([n]ot miss the sister, nor your parents the daughter”) (cf. HD VII, 174–185). Herrmann’s parents also relate the revolution to their private ‘family revolution’. For the mother, it becomes (in the second canto) an occasion to remember her own marriage as a figure of bonum through malum: Their union owes nothing to a political evil, but to a natural disaster, namely the fire that had set the whole town ablaze twenty years ago, a ‘Sunday like today’ (HD II, 113). Over the “Trümmer des Hauses und Hofes” (“debris of the house and home”) the neighboring landlord’s son arrived there to free them. This turned into a neighbouring marriage comparable to the German-French marriage of Herrmann and Dorothea,197 which promised not primarily family happiness but added social value. The father is rumoured to have said to his bride at the time: “Siehe, das Haus liegt nieder. Bleib hier, und hilf mir es zu bauen, / Und ich helfe dagegen auch deinem Vater an seinem” (“Behold, the house lies low. Stay here, and help me build it, / And I, on the other hand, will also help your father with his”). (HD II, 147f.) Before the new foundation of the family, before the children of this marriage, there was the rebuilding of the little town. The mother, who had at first rejected the courting kiss of the neighboring suitor, did not understand the communal meaning of their union until after their marriage: “Doch ich verstand dich nicht, bis du zum Vater die Mutter / Schicktest und schnell das Gelübd der fröhlichen Ehe vollbracht war” (“But I did not understand you, until you sent to the father the mother / And quickly the vow of the happy marriage was accomplished.”) (HD II, 149 f.) The political instrumentalization of marriage is underscored in the revisited topos of the sunrise. Just as the judge refers to the news of human rights as a “erster Glanz der neuen Sonne” (“first glow of the new sun”) (HD VI, 8), the mother recalls her historic Sunday morning with the marriage proposal as a morning when the sun rose “wieder / Herrlicher […] als je” (“again / More glorious […] than ever”) (HD II, 127f.). Thus, the marriage of the parents– and the words of the mother in the text– anticipates not only words of the judge, but also the future union of Herrmann and Dorothea– and their text-concluding words.  In other words, one of those neighborly visions that has echoes in both the idyll Alexis und Dora and the novella of the whimsical neighbor children of Die Wahlverwandtschaften. 197

4.3  Herrmann und Dorothea: Epic Disguise


If in the plague and morbid passion form the background metaphor for a revolution that must be warded off in Unterhaltungen deutscher Ausgewanderten, an intertextually far-reaching isotopia of love, fire and Pentecost provides the aesthetic and political productivity of an equally far-reaching ‘revolution’ in Herrmann und Dorothea. The mother, who is initiated by and into the marriage, together with the priest, has the main function in the epic-collective community renewal. In this, another characteristic of Ausgewanderten is repeated: mother and priest outdo the couple constellation of baroness and abbé from that frame story. In her function as wife and mother, she praises the son, who even today dares to “zu frein im Krieg und über den Trümmern” (“be free in the war and above the ruins”) (HD II, 157). The latent– and not least latently sexual – father-daughter relationship that pervades Voß’s small-family idyll becomes in Goethe a mother-son relationship with which a political extended-family vision is insinuated. The nuclear family dispositive, with which, according to Friedrich Kittler, the alliance principle is broken in the Goethe period in order to short-circuit biological motherhood and literary authorship, does not take effect in Herrmann und Dorothea as a master narrative, as it were, but secondarily.198 For once, the mother’s voice has the function of awakening in Herrmann a spousal authority that only together with Dorothea’s masculinized wife-voice simulates an ‘epic’ primordial authorship before writing. Wilhelm von Humboldt, who elevated Goethe’s hexameter epic to the object of study of a classical-aesthetic norm indifferent and ‘equally valid’ to its objects, was known to be disturbed by Dorothea’s unmotherly, Amazonian trait. And that is why, significantly, he illustrates the ‘plain simplicity’ and ‘natural truth’ that he believes distinguishes the poem with its own little section on the love of the mother. In Dorothea’s literally revolutionary love, such ‘naturalness’ was evidently not readily apparent.199

Apotropaic Pairing There is a double trick in the supposed substitution of an ambivalent revolution for love. On the one hand, what may superficially appear as love at first sight between the protagonists remains a one-sided affair, despite all the removal of obstacles. The motif of courtship turns into an apotropaic banishment of (revolutionary) love, but does not result in the exchange of a mutual promise of love. On the other hand, the courtship does not replace the revolution at all; rather, it breaks in again with Dorothea’s revolutionary final words, which are no longer hers, and the supposedly

 Cf. esp. “Der Muttermund” in: Friedrich Kittler, Aufschreibesysteme 1800–1900, Munich: Fink4 2003 (1985), pp.35–86 as well as ders, Dichter– Mutter– Kind. German literature in the family system 1760–1820, Munich: Fink 1991. 199  Cf. Wilhelm von Humboldt, Aesthetische Versuche. Erster Theil. Ueber Göthes Herrmann und Dorothea, in: Ders, Werke in fünf Bänden, vol. 2: Schriften zur Altertumskunde und Ästhetik. The Vasken, ed. Andreas Flitner and Klaus Giel, Darmstadt: WBG 2010, pp.125–356; here: p.210 and pp.210–214 respectively. 198


4 Between Märchen andNovel: Goethe’s Marriage Experiments

excluded party proves to be an incorporated third party. I turn first to the first aspect, in order to discuss the engagement and the final speeches in more detail in the following section. The political conflict of the French Revolution corresponds to the generational conflict at the level of the innkeeper’s family. The very fact that Goethe makes the inn the center of society indicates the problem of exchange and circulation. “Aller Anfang ist schwer” (“All beginnings are hard”), the father comments on the mother’s memory of her difficult house-founding at the time of the town fire, “am schwersten der Anfang der Wirtschaft. / Mancherlei Dinge bedarf der Mensch, und alles wird täglich / Teurer; da seh’ er sich vor, des Geldes mehr zu erwerben” (“hardest of all is the beginning of the household. / Man needs many things, and everything becomes daily / More expensive; so he plans to acquire more of the money”) (HD II, 166–168). The father desires a rich bride because he relies on money. With money, the household can not only be ‘maintained’ and ‘renewed’, but also secured against damage, for example by building “Kanäle” (“canals”) to ward off the next “Feuer sogleich beim ersten Ausbruch” (“fire immediately after the first outbreak”) (HD III, 31). As a “Bauherr” (“builder”) (HD III, 33), the landlord has been in the council six times. Money allows change, makes a man a citizen, makes the landlord of the Golden Lion a builder of the larger economy of the little town. Herrmann, on the other hand, is regressive and fixated on the use value of things, which the father also bitterly laments: Wenig Freud’ erleb’ ich an dir! Ich sagt’ es doch immer, Als du zu Pferden nur und Lust nur bezeigtest zum Acker. Was ein Knecht schon verrichtet des wohlbegüterten Mannes, Tust du; indessen muß der Vater des Sohnes entbehren, Der ihm zur Ehre doch auch vor andern Bürgern sich zeigte.200 (HD II, 246–250) Herrmann literally lacks the bourgeois public spirit. He cares for the horses because they allow him mobility, for the fields because they yield fruit, for the economy because it sustains him, but not because all this also serves the community. The conflict is initially articulated as an economic one: while the father – more progressive, as it were, than the son – is Aristotelian in his advocacy of money-­ making, the son sides with the old model of oikonomia, which includes an obligation to honor his parents (cf. HD IV, 159–180). By the end of the text, the conflict will have shifted both discursively from the economic to the political and in favor of the son. Herrmann’s old economic thinking will prove to be political faith in progress, the father’s acquisitive thinking politically outdated. The conflict is triggered and resolved by Dorothea, who brings a value into the family that is both exchange value and use value. She transforms Herrmann’s household economy into  “There’s little joy in thee! I’ve said it all my life, / When thou didst but show thyself to horses, and lust but to the field. / What a servant hath done for a well-to-do man.., / Thou dost; but the father must do without the son, / Who to his honor showed himself also before other citizens.” 200

4.3  Herrmann und Dorothea: Epic Disguise


citizenship and she maintains the house as a mother. In Goethe’s epic, Dorothea’s gift of God takes the place of a miracle, which, instead of restitution of the divine order, brings about an entirely immanent transformation of evil into a collective human good. In collective, anthropocentric self-deception, one might say, the gift of God becomes a gift of man. The “edle verständige” (“noble understanding”) priest, “die Zierde der Stadt, ein Jüngling näher dem Manne” (“the adornment of the city, a youth closer to the man”) (HD I, 78f.), assumes the role of chief agent in this secular transubstantiation.201 In the indeterminacy of his person– we learn nothing about his marital status or his official activities – he anticipates the sinister function of Mittler from Die Wahlverwandtschaften. He is introduced with the words:Dieser kannte das Leben, und kannte der Hörer Bedürfnis, War vom hohen Werte der heiligen Schriften durchdrungen, Die uns der Menschen Geschick enthüllen und ihre Gesinnung; Und so kannt’ er auch wohl die besten weltlichen Schriften. (HD I, 80–83)202 The pastor no longer needs truth or God, because he is already imbued “vom hohen Werte” (“with the high value”) of the sacred writings. In the anthropocentric embracing of the ‘sacred’ with the ‘secular’ scriptures, he refers to the condensation of times in a revolutionary present, of which the judge will report in the fifth canto: Wahrlich unsere Zeit vergleicht sich den seltensten Zeiten, Die die Geschichte bemerkt, die heilige wie die gemeine. Denn wer gestern und heut’ in diesen Tagen gelebt hat, Hat schon Jahre gelebt: so drängen sich alle Geschichten.203 (HD V, 229–232) Like the judge, the pastor derives a decisionist postulate from the aggravation of the historical crisis. When the father is informed by the mother about Herrmann’s choice of bride and initially remains silent, the priest steps into the breach: […] der Augenblick nur entscheidet Über das Leben des Menschen und über sein ganzes Geschicke; Denn nach langer Beratung ist doch ein jeder Entschluß nur

 As far as I can see, Uwe Steiner is the only one who points out the “Mephistophelian traits” of the priest. It is he who ‘tempts’ Dorothea and in this way wrings the confession of love from her (“‘Gespenstische Gegenständlichkeit’”, p.637). 202  “This one knew life, and knew the listener’s need, / Was imbued with the high value of the holy scriptures, / Which reveal to us the fortunes of men, and their dispositions; / And so he also knew the best worldly writings.” 203  “Truly our time compares to the rarest of times, / Who notices history, both sacred and common. / For he who lived yesterday and today in these days, / Has lived for years: so all stories crowd.” 201


4 Between Märchen andNovel: Goethe’s Marriage Experiments

Werk des Moments, es ergreift doch nur der Verständge das Rechte.204 (HD V, 57–60) In the moment of decision, as a contingency coping strategy, faith becomes indifferent to its contents and truth becomes indistinguishable from pretence. The pastor relies on the fact that man has it in his power to create good regardless of the foundation. In doing so, he deprives himself, as the text might suggest, of his raison d’être in bourgeois society; and at the same time he conceals the fact that he himself acts quite differently, namely with calculation and dissimulation. One could see Goethe’s priest as a parasitic variant of the bourgeois, who only maintains his function by feeding people and couples to society (or more critically: handing them over to it).205 Goethe famously found the motif of the outrageous courtship, in which dissimulation takes the place of a real (marriage) obstacle, in Gerhard Gottlieb Günther Göcking’s Vollkommene Emigrations-Geschichte Von denen aus dem Ertz-Bißthum Saltzburg vertriebenen Und größtententheils nach Preussen gegangen Lutheranern (Frankfurt/Leipzig 1731).206 In a letter to Heinrich Meyer, Goethe praises the fortunate trouvaille: “Der Gegenstand selbst ist äusserst glücklich, ein Sujet, wie man es in seinem Leben vielleicht nicht zweimal findet” (“The subject itself is extremely fortunate, a subject such as one may not find twice in one’s life.”)207 It is the short anecdote, about two pages in length, of a Salzburg maid who, during her escape, “wunderbarlich verheyrathet ward” (“was wonderfully married).”208 While passing through the Öttingian, she catches the eye of a rich burgher’s son. He pretends to want to employ her as a maid. He reports to his father that he has found his long-­ sought bride. After a futile attempt, with the help of friends and a preacher, to dissuade the son from this choice, he is allowed to present the girl to her father. Unaware of the son’s ruse, he naively asks the girl how she likes her bridegroom, whereupon the girl is snubbed by her father’s ‘fooling’ and ‘monkeying’. Unlike in Herrmann und Dorothea, however, the father immediately confirms the request in question, and the son discovers the true driving force behind his wooing: “Er habe ein

 “[…] the moment only decides / About the life of man and about his whole destiny; / After all, after long deliberation, any decision is only / Work of the moment, only the understanding seizes the right.” 205  Hans Geulen describes the priest as a “representative of an Enlightenment that has already become philistine” (“Goethes Hermann und Dorothea”, p.5). Gerhard Kaiser describes him as follows: “The pastor is a mild enlightener who obviously has the popular philosophers, perhaps also Rousseau, in his bookcase in addition to the Bible”. He uses raisonnement more than preaching, psychological-indirect steering of his flock more than commandment, and operates a religion of humanity (“Französische Revolution und deutsche Hexameter”, p.85). 206  Quoted from: Joseph Schmidt (ed.), Johann Wolfgang Goethe. Hermann und Dorothea. Erläuterungen und Dokumente, Stuttgart: Reclam 1970, pp.65–68. 207  Goethe to Heinrich Meyer on 28 April 1797; quoted in: Schmidt (ed.), Johann Wolfgang Goethe. Hermann und Dorothea, p.83. 208  Göcking, Vollkommene Emigrations-Geschichte; quoted in: Schmidt (ed.), Johann Wolfgang Goethe. Hermann und Dorothea, p.66. 204

4.3  Herrmann und Dorothea: Epic Disguise


hertzliches Verlangen, sie zu heyrathen” (“He has a hearty desire to marry her”).209 Thereupon the girl– without tears flowing as they did with Dorothea– accepts the marriage proposal. And in the end, a miracle occurs: she returns the marriage pledge which the son hands her with a cash crop of two hundred ducats, which she draws from her bosom. “Folglich war die Verlobung richtig” (“Consequently, the engagement was correct”), the story concludes, “[h]at man wol nicht Ursache bey solchen Umständen voller Verwunderung auszurufen: Herr, wie gar unbegreiflich sind deine Gerichte, und wie unerforschlich deine Wege?” (“however, one has no cause to exclaim in astonishment at such circumstances: Lord, how utterly incomprehensible are thy judgments, and how inscrutable thy ways?”)210 The risk of freeing the faith-­ averse, foreign maid is economically compensated. In Göcking, who was himself a preacher and entrusted with the settlement of the Salzburg refugees, the anecdote trades as one among many uplifting stories with which successful integration is demonstrated. Last but not least, the documentary work dedicated to King Frederick William I affirms his religious tolerance policy. Goethe thus turns a small miracle of preservation into a small epic of renewal. I have therefore reproduced the story, of which usually only the two hundred ducats are mentioned (which in Goethe are ambiguously replaced by ‘love’ and/or the engagement ring of the first bridegroom), in greater detail in order to be able to profile Herrmann’s incomparably weaker position against it. The burgher’s son in Göcking’s source confronts his father at eye level and asserts his own will from the very beginning. This is hardly a generational conflict, hardly the son’s shame, hardly a lack of courage or a half-intentional dissimulation. Schiller, however, seems to have had precisely this weakness of Herrmann’s in mind when he wrote to Goethe: “Ihr Hermann hat wirklich eine gewiße Hinneigung zur Tragödie, wenn man ihm den reinen strengen Begriff der Epopee gegenüber stellt. Das Herz ist inniger und ernstlicher beschäftigt, es ist mehr pathologisches Interesse als poetische Gleichgültigkeit darinn […]” (“Your Hermann really has a certain inclination towards tragedy, if one contrasts him with the pure strict concept of epopee. The heart is more intimately and seriously engaged, there is more pathological interest than poetic indifference in it […]”).211 Tragic or not, Herrmann is in any case not an epic hero, he does not (yet) have the gods on his side, it is only his encounter with Dorothea, the gift of God or the gods, that sets his ‘individuation’ in motion.212 It is none other than the pastor, who knows the soul and the Scriptures, who is the first to recognize this change in Herrmann, with “scharfen Blick” (“sharp glances”) and “dem Auge des Forschers, der leicht die Mienen enträtselt” (“the eye of the researcher who easily unravels facial expressions”) (HD II, 2 and 4), as soon as he  Ibid.  Ibid., p.67. 211  Schiller to Goethe, 26 December 1797, in: Ders, Werke und Briefe, ed. Otto Dann etal., vol. 12: Briefe II. 1795–1805, Frankfurt a. M.: Deutscher Klassiker Verlag 2002; p.356. 212  Cf. Eibl, “Anamnesis des ‘Augenblicks’”, p.121, who writes with regard to Herrmann’s conflict with his father: “Hermann und Dorothea is, among other things, the story of an individuation”. He does not, however, problematize the asymmetry in this experience of self and couple. 209 210


4 Between Märchen andNovel: Goethe’s Marriage Experiments

enters the room, before he has even said a word. But on what is the change based? At least according to Herrmann’s account, there can be no question of an erotic love encounter.213 Rather, the first encounter is entirely under the sign of that third – charitable and social– instance from whose horizon of meaning the couple’s relationship is not released throughout the text. Herrmann does not give Dorothea his heart, she merely makes his heart speak– whether for better or for worse is left open by his pathetically patriotic final words. For all its artful description of Dorothea, the text omits the attribute of physical beauty. Dorothea walks “mit starken Schritten” (“with strong steps”) and “klüglich“(“wisely”) guides the ponderous ox-cart (HD II, 24 and 26). Herrmann derives a sense of justice from her charitable actions and entrusts his other gifts to her for distribution. She consequently has the heroic character that he does not have until the end and that he can only assert in the apotropaic conquest of Dorothea. While in Göcking’s case the burgher’s son goes home and declares bluntly to his father that he has found a bride “die ihm sehr wohl gefiele” (“whom he likes very much”),214 in Herrmann’s case the courtship, since he himself fails, expands into a community project.215 In the process, like the judge of the exile community, he acquires the traits of a Mosaic progenitor, though less positive than negative.216 His father reproaches him for always having been the “Unterste” (“lowest”) (HD II, 253) in school; before his tongue was loosened by Dorothea, it had been “[l]ange Jahre gestockt” (“stalled for many years”) (HD V, 110). With Herrmann’s inability to articulate his will, the enterprise expands into “Geschichte” (“history”), into “die heilige wie die gemeine” (“the sacred as well as the common”): “Er kennt nur Adam und Eva” (“He knows only Adam and Eve”) (HD II, 228), they mocked in the wealthy neighboring house where Herrmann haplessly wooed a nun and was ridiculed as Tamino. It is precisely to this more or less idyllic  To trace the motif of the ‘love marriage’ in Herrmann und Dorothea in terms of social history also seems problematic to me in this respect. Cf. Jürgen Kost, “Die Fortschrittlichkeit des scheinbar Konventionellen. Das Motiv der Liebesheirat in Goethe’s Hermann und Dorothea,” Goethe-­ Jahrbuch 113 (1996), 281–286. 214  Göcking, Vollkommene Emigrations-Geschichte; quoted in: Schmidt (ed.), Johann Wolfgang Goethe. Hermann und Dorothea, p.66. 215  The friends and the preacher also play a role in Göcking, but only in one sentence, only in order to talk the son out of the bride and only in a conversation that precedes the bride’s homecoming: “When the father, together with his friends and the preacher who had been brought here, had long tried in vain to talk him out of it, but finally admitted it to him; so he presented the Saltzburg girl to his father.” (Ibid.) At the subsequent engagement in the father’s house, friends and pastor are no longer mentioned. 216  On the parallels between Herrmann and Moses, see Karin Schutjer, “German Epic / Jewish Epic: Goethe’s Exodus Narrative in Hermann und Dorothea and ‘Israel in der Wüste’,” The German Quarterly 80 (2007), 165–184.– She shows how Goethe’s critique of nationalism and the thesis of a modern nation capable of development is bought with anti-Judaism: “Hermann and Dorothea employs its Exodus analogy to suggest the possibility of an integrative, adaptive modern German cultural consciousness, while “Israel in the Desert” reads out of the Exodus story a highly negative prefiguration of a volatile modern Judaism. Indeed I show that this essay of biblical criticism amounts to a barely concealed polemic against Jewish emancipation” (p.166). 213

4.3  Herrmann und Dorothea: Epic Disguise


prehistory that Herrmann catapults himself in the fourth canto, placed under the musical protection of flute playing.217 In the debate with his matriarchal and natural mother on the border of the innkeeper’s estate, under the pear tree that already lies beyond the city limits,218 the son disguises himself first as a Homeric warrior in reaction to the break with his father –Ja, mir hat es der Geist gesagt, und im innersten Busen Regt sich Mut und Begier, dem Vaterlande zu leben Und zu sterben und Andern ein würdiges Beispiel zu geben.219 (HD IV, 95–97) – only to be unmasked under the maternal influence of “halbwahre Worte” (“half-­ true words”) and “halber Verstellung” (“half dissimulation”) (HD IV, 136) and, in the course of his famous confession– “ich entbehre der Gattin” (“I am without a wife”) (HD IV, 196)– to make the discursive leap from the secular to the sacred scriptures:Denn es löset die Liebe, das fühl’ ich, jegliche Bande, Wenn sie die ihrigen knüpft; und nicht das Mädchen alleine Lässet Vater und Mutter dahinten, wenn sie dem Mann folgt, Auch der Jüngling er weiß nichts mehr von Mutter und Vater, Wenn er das Mädchen sieht, das einziggeliebte, davonziehn.220 (HD IV, 219–223) Hermann, in his conversation with the mother under the pear tree, quotes from Genesis 1: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24). These are at the same time the words with which the pastor of Grünau involuntarily marries his daughter: “Vater und Mutter / Soll verlassen der Mensch, daß Mann und Weib sich vereinen” (“A man shall leave his father and mother, and his husband and wife shall be joined together.”) Herrmann, on the other hand, pronounces the biblical words as a wish; to be a second Adam becomes for him a wishful image, for the realization of which he depends on the help of others. His love for Dorothea is the faith upon which the welfare of the little society depends. In the treatise “Israel in der Wüste” (“Israel in the Desert”), which is written in parallel with Herrmann und Dorothea and in which Goethe philologically analyzes the Old Testament Exodus narrative, Goethe  The fourth canto bears the double title “Euterpe. Mother and Son”.  On the symbolic topography of inn, small town, exile village, and city on the left bank of the Rhine, cf. especially the remarks in Maria Lypp, Ästhetische Reflexion und ihre Gestaltung in Goethes ‘Hermann und Dorothea’, Stuttgart: o. V. 1969; pp.36–66 (‘Der Raum’). 219  “Yes, the Spirit has told me, and in my innermost bosom… / If courage and desire arise to live for the fatherland / And to die and give others a worthy example.” 220  “For love, I feel, looseth all bonds, / When she ties hers; and not the girl alone / Leave father and mother behind when she follows the man, / Also the young man he knows nothing more of mother and father, / When he sees the girl, the only beloved, pull away.” 217 218


4 Between Märchen andNovel: Goethe’s Marriage Experiments

famously filters out the conflict between unbelief and faith as its main theme.221 At the same time, in his scriptural analysis, he problematizes the ‘character’ of Moses, which seems to him too crude and unpolished for that of a lawgiver. Goethe only makes this character more credible through a critique of historical facts.222 Herrmann’s ‘feignedness’ resembles entirely this Mosaic ‘crudeness’, the legislative dignity of which must be brought out. For this, in the fourth canto, the mother’s cunning is called into play: “wir bedürfen der Freunde, die jetzo bei ihm [dem Vater] noch versammelt / Sitzen; besonders wird uns der würdige Geistliche helfen” (“we need the friends who are now still gathered / With him [the father]; especially the worthy clergyman will help us”) (HD IV, 248f.). Through the ruse of obtaining the father’s blessing for her son, Herrmann’s mother takes on the role of the Old Testament progenitor Rebekah, Isaac’s wife, who helps her younger son Jacob (in place of Esau) to obtain the blessing of the firstborn.223 Goethe thus ties in precisely with the progenitor couple Jacob and Rachel cited by Voß, who– like Herrmann and Dorothea– find each other at a well. Goethe superimposes the Old Testament narrative on a Homeric campaign.224 As ironic ‘scouts’– courtship agents– the apothecary and the priest are sent off to the camp of the emigrants to ‘test’ the girl. Repeatedly, the Homeric antonomasia ‘companions’ and ‘scouts’ replace their designation as bride-couriers, turning the bride into a military trophy.225 The fifth and central canto, which is marked by Polyhymnia and the citizen of the world, appears as the climax and turning point of the epic with the decision to send out the friends. The mother praises the day of the bride’s choice: “Nun ist er kommen der Tag” (“Now is the day come”) (HD V, 46)– a turn of phrase that is entirely reminiscent of the old man’s “es ist an der Zeit” (“it is time”) from the Märchen  Johann Wolfgang Goethe, “Israel in the Desert”, in: Ders, Sämtliche Werke. Briefe, Tagebücher und Gespräche, vol. 3: West-östlicher Divan. Part I, ed. Hendrik Birus, Frankfurt a. M.: Deutscher Klassiker Verlag 1994, pp.229–247. 222  Goethe assumes that the journey through the desert lasted only two years instead of forty, and only in this way can Moses’ character be explained to him: “But of course such a picture is completely distorted when we see a strong, swift man of action, forty years without sense and need, with an enormous mass of people, staggering around in such a small space, in the face of his great goal. Merely by shortening the path and the time he spent on it, we have made up for all the evil we dared to say of him, and raised him to his right place.” (Goethe, “Israel in the Desert,” p.247.) 223  Schutjer, “German Epic / Jewish Epic,” p.181, footnote 24, also points to the intertextual parallel with Jacob and Rebekah (Genesis 27:5–27). 224  Cf. Goethe’s letter to Schiller of April 19, 1797: “I am now studying the Old Testament and Homer in great haste, at the same time reading Eichhorn’s introduction to the former and Wolf’s prolegomena to the latter”; quoted in: Schutjer, “German Epic / Jewish Epic”, p.167. 225  Already Yahya A.Elsaghe, Untersuchungen zu ‘Hermann und Dorothea’, Bern u. a.: Lang 1990, states, “The ‘trial’ of the ‘girl’ is to be ironically stylized as a military excursion” (p.113). In the chapter ‘A presumed Iliad adaptation’ (pp.111–129), he traces in particular the similarities with the so-called Dolonia, that episode from the tenth book of the Iliad in which Diomedes and Odysseus are sent out to the Trojan camp, where they kill (rather brutally) Rhesos and twelve Thracians. 221

4.3  Herrmann und Dorothea: Epic Disguise


from Augewanderten. Andnow, after the bourgeois delegation has proposed for him, the son dares to describe to his father the bold desire of the bride’s possession as a happy product of the war: Sollte nicht auch ein Glück aus diesem Unglück hervorgehn, Und ich, im Arme der Braut, der zuverlässigen Gattin, Mich nicht erfreuen des Kriegs, so wie Ihr des Brandes Euch freutet?226 (HD V, 105–107) These sudden, manly words from the son make an impression on the father. Thus the epic narrator has him “bedeutend den Mund auf[tun]” (“significantly open[ing] his mouth”) and exclaiming, “Wie ist, o Sohn, dir die Zunge gelös’t” (“How is, O son, thy tongue loosed”) (HD V, 108 and 109). Herrmann’s transformation and the revolution that the judge compares to the event of Pentecost are thus brought into a metaphorical analogy. The fifth and sixth cantos also contain the two descriptions of Dorothea, which are repeated almost word for word, and which in this repetition stage an epic stylistic characteristic. The first time Herrmann describes the girl’s incomparable “Bildung” (“appearence”) (HD V, 167), the second time the apothecary who singles her out “aus vielen hundert” (“from many hundreds”) (HD VI, 125). Dorothea is graceful, shaply, but above all neat and cleanly dressed. She wears a red bib, a black bodice, a shirt, and a blue skirt. Here the colours of the tricolour are echoed, and with it her manly deed of having repelled invaders of war with the sabre (cf. HD VI, 104–118). And likewise with it her engagement to a revolutionary. What remains ambivalent in this “Bildung”, however, are the protagonist’s ‘faith and love’. Unlike the girl from Göcking’s source, who brings not only unexpected money but first and foremost the right faith into the marriage, the convictions of Dorothea, a fugitive from the revolutionary frontier, remain literally in limbo. The judge declares in retrospect that the neighbours had mixed in the “munterer Tanz […] um die neue Standarte” (“lively dance […] around the new standard”). The German territory on the left bank of the Rhine has been quasi-peacefully taken by the Franks until a ‘depraved race’ began to fight for supremacy. It is ‘reconquered’, the ‘Franks’ flee (cf. HD VI, 52–65), but why then do the Germans also flee? The Franks retreat with terrible violence, but this also stirred up “in unsern Männern die Wut” (“rage in our men”) (HD VI, 66), as the judge explains. When Dorothea fends off marauders with counter-violence, she has long since ceased to defend one side against the other, but

 “Should not some good fortune come from this misfortune.., / And I, in the arms of the bride, the reliable wife, / Do not rejoice in war as you rejoice in fire?” 226


4 Between Märchen andNovel: Goethe’s Marriage Experiments

brute force in an all-against-all.227 It is thus absolutely unclear what ‘reason’ lies behind Dorothea’s equally charitable and warlike drive. Herrmann, however, cannot ask himself the question of this reason, because only the priest learns of Dorothea’s “schönen Tat” (“beautiful deed”) (HD VI, 104) through the judge. The latter, however, is all the more convinced of Herrmann’s choice because of the report. Ironically, when the apothecary describes the girl the second time, he recognizes her not by the description given to him by Herrmann, but by another “deutliches” (“clear”) sign (HD VI, 136): “ich erkenne genau den alten Kattun und den blauen / Küssenüberzug wohl, den ihr Herrmann im Bündel gebracht hat” (“I recognize exactly the old calico and the blue / pillowcase well, which Herrmann brought her in a bundle”) (HD VI, 133f.), he announces to the priest in their joint wall-view of the refugee group. Her other attributes are then only repeated in an ironically obligatory manner (cf. HD VI, 137–147). From this epic parody, one can not only read how the apothecary perceives the courtship as a barter already begun. Dorothea’s material and colour-­ coordinated ‘appearence’ is also profiled as an object-symbol that will clothe the son better than the old-fashioned dressing gown with Indian flowers had clothed the father. If Herrmann, who was waiting for the ‘scouts’ at the well in front of the village, still wants, despite their clear findings, to ‘free himself’ instead of fetching Dorothea home immediately together with his friends, this does not mean that now, as the title (‘Erato. Dorothea’) referring to the love poem might suggest, an abrupt exchange between the two takes place. Their second encounter remains as clouded as the water in the village, which has been polluted by the refugees (cf. HD VII, 28–36). Herrmann now frees Dorothea himself, but– like the burgher’s son from the original– as a maid and not as a wife. While the latter, however, uses cunning to persuade the bride to go with him, Herrmann is dominated by the fear of a lack of reciprocity: “ Jedoch ihr von Liebe zu sprechen, / Wär’ ihm unmöglich gewesen; ihr Auge blickte nicht Liebe, / Aber hellen Verstand, und gebot verständig zu reden”  On the reference to the tricolour in their clothing, see Gerhard Kluge, “Hermann und Dorothea. Die Revolution und Hermanns Schlußrede– zwei ‘schmerzliche Zeichen’”, Goethe-Jahrbuch 109 (1992), 61–68; here: 62. To my knowledge, only Mendicino, “Break-Dance”, p.308, points to the undecidability of the fronts in the border area. Schutjer, “German Epic / Jewish Epic”, p. 170, shows the same undecidability on the basis of the Old Testament intertext: if the judge stands for Moses, the crossing of the Rhine for the passage through the Red Sea, the French moved into the role of the Egyptians; if he stands for Joshua, the Jordan would be crossed with the Rhine, with Germany the Promised Land would be entered, where the chosen Israelites were again to act according to the law of conquest.– Gerhard Kaiser points out that Goethe is retrospectively idyllic in that the Rhine frontier had already been crossed in 1797. All in all, the fiction seems to be simply improbable; at least I have nowhere read of a historical flight of the Rhenish civilian population in the course of the First Revolutionary War. Rather, it was the supporters of the Ancien Régime, i.e. above all the nobility, who had to flee. In accordance with this historical reality, the frame personnel of the Unterhaltungen deutscher Ausgewanderten is a noble family whose male head may already have become a victim of the revolutionaries. 227

4.3  Herrmann und Dorothea: Epic Disguise


(“Yet to speak to her of love / Would have been impossible for him; her eye did not see love, / But bright understanding, and commanded to speak intelligently”). (HD VII, 50–52).228 Thus Dorothea explicitly allows herself to be wooed as a maid – “[d]ingen möchtet Ihr mich als Magd für Vater und Mutter” (“you would have me serve as maid to father and mother”) (HD VII, 76)– and in the infamous “Dienen lerne bei Zeiten das Weib” (“Let the woman learn to serve in time”) verses (HD VII, 114–128) she consequently responds not as a lover but as a maid and potential housewife and mother. The possession of the maid makes Herrmann the master; this transition is enacted step by step in the seventh and eighth cantos.229 If the seventh canto begins with the famous Homeric simile in which Herrmann perceives Dorothea like an optical sunset illusion (HD VII, 1–7)– as a “Traum” (“dream”) (HD VII, 8) namely and as a “Scheinbild” (“simulacrum”) (HD VII, 11)– the following canto begins symmetrically with a description from the perspective of the epic poet, which now makes the couple appear as one. Whereas Dorothea was previously presented as a mirage of the sun from Herrmann’s perception, now both of them– in a zero-focused perspective– go “entgegen der sinkenden Sonne / Die in Wolken sich tief, gewitterdrohend, verhüllte” (“towards the sinking sun / That in clouds low, thunderstorm-threatening, veiled itself”) (HD VIII, 1f.). The homecoming of the “hohen Gestalten” (“tall figures”) (HD VIII, 8) is marked by the threat of a thunderstorm, much as in the Promessi sposi the reunion at the plague hospital is accompanied by a thunderstorm. But while Renzo and Lucia each have their own ‘thunderstorm experience’ there, in Herrmann und Dorothea a heroized couple defies all natural forces. Dorothea’s stumbling comes at the end of this penultimate canto, which features the couple ‘Herrmann and Dorothea’ combined with the muse of tragic poetry, Melpomene, in its title: ‘her foot cracked, she threatened to fall’ (HD VIII, 90). Whatever one may refer this ‘foreboding’ (cf. HD VIII, 4) noise to– Dorothea’s first betrothal, Herrmann’s symbolic deflowering of the virgin, or the bride’s imminent adultery– the woman’s ‘natural stumbling’ is necessary in order to be able to antique the so unequal couple as a marble statue at all: Eilig streckte gewandt der sinnige Jüngling den Arm aus, Hielt empor die Geliebte; sie sank ihm leis’ auf die Schulter, Brust war gesenkt an Brust und Wang’ an Wange. So stand er, Starr wie ein Marmorbild, vom ernsten Willen gebändigt, Drückte nicht fester sie an, er stemmte sich gegen die Schwere. Und so fühlt’ er die herrliche Last, die Wärme des Herzens,  In part, the reason given for Herrmann’s hesitation is the engagement ring already on Dorothea’s finger. But the seventh canto leaves no doubt that Herrmann would not have dared even without the ring; it is mentioned only at the very end: “Oh! and he saw the golden ring on the girl’s finger.” (HD VII, 101). 229  Steiner speaks of the table of the inn, which stands ‘firmly on four feet’, as a transitional object in Winnicott’s sense. Insofar as Dorothea takes the place of the mother she is to become again, she is the transitional object. Cf. Steiner, “‘Gespenstische Gegenständlichkeit’”, p.631. 228


4 Between Märchen andNovel: Goethe’s Marriage Experiments

Und den Balsam des Atems, an seinen Lippen verhauchet, Trug mit Mannesgefühl die Heldengröße des Weibes.230 (HD VIII, 91–98) The couple is ekphrastically fused. Herrmann’s lack of heroism is compensated for in the woman’s stumbling.231 In catching the stumbling woman, he receives feminine “Schwere” (“weight”) and “herrliche Last” (“glorious burden”), which is transferred to him as “Mannesgefühl” (“manly feeling”) and makes him a bearer of feminine “Heldengröße” (“heroic greatness”) (HD VIII, 98).232

Engagement asaTouching ofOpposites Dorothea’s stumbling corresponds in the ninth and last canto– “Urania. Aussicht”– to her blackmailed confession of love as a collective trophy. It is the priest who, in the last canto, ensures that the law of the nuclear family is fulfilled and Herrmann receives not only a maid but his wife.233 As in Göcking’s source, the father unwittingly ‘teases’ Dorothea upon the couple’s arrival at the inn. This exposes Herrmann’s unspoken plan, and Dorothea exclaims, ‘Traun! for such a reception the son hath not prepared me’ (HD IX, 93). Instead of revealing the true motives now, however, the priest – absent from the source – amplifies the “spöttischen Worte” (“mocking words”) (HD IX, 88) of the father to “versuchenden Worten” (“trying words”) (HD IX, 112). He rebukes Dorothea for her sensitivity and thereby provokes the so-­ called confession of love: Ja, des Vaters Spott hat tief mich getroffen: nicht, weil ich Stolz und empfindlich bin, wie es wohl der Magd nicht geziemet, Sondern weil mir fürwahr im Herzen die Neigung sich regte Gegen den Jüngling, der heute mir als ein Erretter erschienen.234 (HD IX, 147–150)

 “Hastily the sensible youth stretched out his arm, / Held up his beloved; she sank softly on his shoulder, / Chest was lowered to chest and wang’ to cheek. Thus he stood, / Rigid as a marble image, tamed by an earnest will, / Didn’t push harder on her, he braced himself against the heaviness. / And so he feels the glorious burden, the warmth of the heart, / And the balm of breath, on his lips breathed, / Wore with manliness the heroic greatness of woman.” 231  Hehn calls Dorothea’s absence “a game of fate, which Cupid himself seems to have arranged with sensible cunning” and “which gives the young man the happiness of being able to press the beloved to his heart even before the betrothal” (Hehn, Über Goethes Hermann und Dorothea, p.82). 232  In my opinion, Hans Geulen overlooks this when, instead of merely ‘bringing home’ the bride, he wants to speak of a union that is “brought about by this [the couple] themselves” (“Goethe’s Hermann and Dorothea”, p.15). 233  Cf. Kittler, Dichter– Mutter– Kind, p.14: “The literary texts of Goethe’s time have their law on the nuclear family system that they presuppose, propagate and inculcate.” 234  “Yes, the father’s mockery has deeply affected me: not because I’m / proud and sensitive, as a maid should not be, / But because in my heart of hearts the inclination did stir… / Against the youth who appeared to me today as a savior.” 230

4.3  Herrmann und Dorothea: Epic Disguise


The inclination of the heart becomes a matter of which Dorothea is ashamed and which compensates for Herrmann’s shame of lacking masculinity. Goethe sexualizes the anecdote, which in Göcking has only a moral and an economic point. While the maid only wants to sweep a lie under the rug, the diabolical priest, by predicting a hellish employment relationship with Dorothea, provides an existential escalation of this lie. “ Denn der Handschlag bestimmt das ganze Schicksal des Jahres, / Und gar vieles zu dulden verbindet ein einziges Jawort” (“For the handshake determines the whole fate of the year, / And even much to tolerate binds a single word of consent”) (HD IX, 116f.), thus he provokes Dorothea. That she therefore backs down and follows her ‘confession of love’ with the decision to go “wieder hinweg” (“away again”) is therefore only plausible.235 In Herrmann’s case, however, the bride’s “stille[] Wunsch” (“silent wish”) (HD IX, 166), which is tickled out of her, does not lead to a reciprocal speech act, to the confession of love that he only withheld because he saw “nicht Liebe” (“not love”) (HD VII, 51) in Dorothea’s eyes. He does not speak of an inclination of the heart towards Dorothea; in his clarification he only allows himself to be carried away to the words: “ich kam, um deine Liebe zu werben” (“I came to court your love”) (HD IX, 216). No romantic, reciprocal love, then, but a transaction involving the change of positions and the chiastic reversal of female strength and male weakness.236 At the moment when the father embraces Dorothea and the women are tearfully silent (cf. HD IX, 236–238), everything seems– almost as in Voß’s Luise – sensitively clarified and the patriarchal idyll restored. The evil of the French Revolution is banished in the good of a German marriage. Although the text doubly prevents such a use of the couple for national identity formation– in that an engagement rather than a marriage takes place and that Dorothea turns out to be the bride of a revolutionary – the social instrumentalisation of the couple cannot be explained away. Goethe, unlike Voß the priest of Grünau, has his priest not marry the couple but betroth them, suggesting no right of marriage but a human feasibility of right. He responds dubiously to Herrmann’s final request that he complete “das Ganze” (“the whole [affair]”) and clear up the entanglement:

 Eibl, “Anamnesis des ‘Augenblicks’”, p. 123, stylizes Dorothea’s backpedaling, following Lessing, as an “opus supererogatum”, an “act that goes beyond normal ethical demands” and that makes Dorothea “visible as a person, […] equal, if not superior”. In doing so, he completely ignores the fact that this ‘work’ is bought by one that undercuts every ‘normal ethical demand’. 236  Nils Reschke quotes the following sentences from Goethe on the relationship between the sexes with regard to the character Ottilie from Die Wahlverwandtschaften: “The man should obey, the woman should serve. Both strive for dominion. The former achieves it by obeying, the latter by serving. To obey is dicto audientem esse; to serve is to anticipate. Each sex demands of the other what it itself performs, and only then is it pleased: the man when the woman obeys him (what he himself does and must do); the woman when the man serves her, comes before her, is attentive, gallant, and whatever it may be called. Thus in love they exchange their roles; the man serves in order to rule, the woman obeys in order to rule.” (Goethe with Friedrich Wilhelm Riemer in August 1807, in Goethes Gespräche, ed. Woldemar Freiherr von Biedermann, 10 vols, Leipzig 1889–1896; here: Vol. 2, p.184; quoted in: Reschke, “Zeit der Umwendung,” p.193.) 235


4 Between Märchen andNovel: Goethe’s Marriage Experiments

Welche Klugheit hätte denn wohl das schöne Bekenntnis Dieser Guten entlockt, und uns enthüllt ihr Gemüte? Ist nicht die Sorge sogleich dir zur Wonn’ und Freude geworden?237 (HD IX, 208–210) Unlike Voß’s pastor, who claims the legally conforming application of the Agende for himself, Goethe’s pastor does not act as an institutional representative, but as a friend, bourgeois advisor and alchemical transformation artist. Depending on the situation, he praises change or continuity– in this case, a continuity of the family that makes differences forgotten: he takes the rings of the parents in order to transfer them to the children with the following words: “noch einmal sei der goldenen Reifen Bestimmung, / Fest ein Band zu knüpfen, das völlig gleiche dem alten” (“once more be the golden hoop’s destiny, / To tie a bond that is completely like the old one”) (HD IX, 243f.). He arbitrarily creates an engagement ritual whose originality is generated by mere visual evidence– instead of, say, circumstantial words from the Holy Scriptures. Victor Hehn therefore attests to the text, similar to Wilhelm von Humboldt, a ‘pure humanity’ and independence from positive religion: Die positive Religion hat in diesem Gedicht voll reiner Menschlichkeit keine Stelle gefunden. Nur einmal trifft sie in einer vorübergehenden Andeutung auf, wo des Tedeums am Friedensfeste erwähnt wird; der Vater wünscht, Hermann möchte dann auch mit der erwählten Braut vor den Altar treten. Die Religion ist hier also nicht getrennt von dem schönsten Inhalt des Menschenlebens und seinen reichsten Momenten, der Friedensfeier und der Ehestiftung, Momente, die so reich sind, daß alle Lebenskraft, die die Kirche noch besitzt, ihr von dorther zufließt und sie an ihnen parasitisch ihr Dasein fristet.238

The naturalization of religion implies a naturalization of marriage. Hehn does not problematize the difference between betrothal and marriage; for him, as a matter of course, it is about the creation of a civil marriage covenant: Allein die romantische subjektive Liebe als solche zu schildern war hier überhaupt des Dichters Zweck nicht, sondern eine werdende Ehe. Er wollte in einem ruhigen Gemälde die Art und Weise darlegen, wie in einer unverdorbenen bürgerlichen Welt auf unbefangen menschlichem Wege das Institut der Ehe sich verwirklicht und von Geschlecht zu Geschlecht sich erneut.239  “What wisdom, then, could have made the beautiful confession… / This good one elicits, and reveals to us her mind? / Has not sorrow at once become delight and joy to thee?” 238  “Positive religion has found no place in this poem full of pure humanity. Only once does it appear in a passing allusion, where the Tedeum is mentioned on the feast of peace; the father wishes that Hermann would then also step before the altar with his chosen bride. Religion is not separated from the most beautiful content of human life and its richest moments, the celebration of peace and the establishment of marriage, moments that are so rich that all the vitality that the church still possesses flows to it from there and it ekes out its existence parasitically on them.” Victor Hehn, Ueber Goethes Hermann und Dorothea, Stuttgart: Cotta’sche Verlagsbuchhandlung 1893, p.112f. 239  “The poet’s purpose here was not to depict romantic subjective love as such, but rather a nascent marriage. He wanted to depict in a calm painting the way in which, in an unspoiled bourgeois world, the institution of marriage is realized in an unselfconsciously human way and is renewed from sex to sex.” Ibid., p.96. 237

4.3  Herrmann und Dorothea: Epic Disguise


Hehn’s national literary appreciation of Herrmann und Dorothea merges seamlessly into an ideologization of marriage. The grammar school professor and schoolman Leo Cholevius, who in 1863 wrote his Aesthetische und historische Einleitung nebst fortlaufender Erläuterung zu Goethe’s Hermann und Dorothea (“Aesthetic and Historical Introduction and Continuing Explanation to Goethe’s Hermann and Dorothea”) avowedly to introduce “der deutschen Jugend” (“German youth”) to “vaterländische[] Poesie” (“patriotic poetry”),240 even thinks he can pinpoint the transition from engagement to marriage in the text itself: “Die Verlobung geht ganz in die Form der Trauung über, bei welcher der Geistliche dem Bräutigam und der Braut das Ja-Wort abfordert, und der Apotheker, dessen Dienste bei der Brautwerbung verschmäht wurden, erhält jetzt wenigstens die Genugthuung, daß ihm das Amt eines Zeugen übertragen wird” (“The betrothal passes entirely into the form of the marriage ceremony, at which the clergyman demands the yes-word from the bridegroom and the bride, and the apothecary, whose services were spurned in the courtship, now at least receives the satisfaction of having the office of a witness conferred upon him”).241 Here the philologist follows entirely in the footsteps of Goethe’s epic priest, who levels differences in order to be able to assert, quite pragmatically, a national-patriotic bond uniting the citizens. The bond that Herrmann and Dorothea forge is, of course, not “völlig” (“completely”) like that of their parents. Unlike his father, Herrmann does not marry a girl from the small town, but at best from the national neighborhood. And unlike his father, he does not marry a virgin, but a bride who was already engaged. In terms of marriage law, the mixture of betrothal and marriage rituals echoes the question of the beginning of a marriage, and one might recall the concept of ‘betrothal marriage’ introduced by Protestant marriage lawyers to assert a family principle of consensus against the marriage-constituting function of the clergy.242 With the revolutionary’s engagement ring, Dorothea proves herself not only a religious trophy, but also a political one. At the sight of the ring, the priest exclaims, “Wie? du verlobest dich schon zum zweitenmal? Daß nicht der erste / Bräutigam bei dem Altar sich zeige mit hinderndem Einspruch!” (“What’s this? thou betrothed for the second time? Lest the first / Bridegroom show himself at the altar with hindering objection!”) (HD IX, 254 f.) Dorothea’s answer consists in the “Erinnerung” (“remembrance”) (HD IX, 256) of the separation from her first bridegroom – a remembrance that paradoxically takes the place of an engagement promise referring to the future. Herrmann counters this speech– prosopopoeia of an absentee– with its underlying tenor of necessary separation in times of change with his (somewhat shorter) national and patriotic manifesto based on “der schönen Güter Besitztum” (“the beautiful estate property”) (HD IX, 301), which concludes the text without either narrator or rhapsode intervening again as mediators. The contrasting final  Leo Cholevius, Ästhetische und historische Einleitung nebst fortlaufender Erläuterung zu Goethes Hermann und Dorothea, Leipzig: B.G.Teubner 1863, p. IV. 241  Ibid., p.267. 242  Cf. above Sect. 2.1: Secularization of marriage? Sacramentality and jurisdiction (“From sacred status to state purpose”). 240


4 Between Märchen andNovel: Goethe’s Marriage Experiments

pleas for change (“alle Güter sind trüglich” [“all goods are deceitful”] HD IX, 289) and continuity (“[w]ir wollen halten und dauern” [“we want to hold on and last”] HD IX, 300) reveal how the pair’s previously accomplished formation and union is counteracted with the reintroduction of a difference. Dorothea ends up speaking not as herself, but as one already transformed and as ‘half a man’. Against the weaker term ‘betrothed’, the expression ‘first bridegroom’ underlines a repeatability and revisability of marriage, covenant and/or peace-making.243 The ‘prospect’ of the last canto, given in the sign of astrology (Urania), momentarily ‘betroths’ two contrary positions; the final speeches stage a paradox.244 The revolutionary preaches a political religion with eschatological features: Lebe glücklich, sagt’ er. Ich gehe; denn Alles bewegt sich Jetzt auf Erden einmal, es scheint sich Alles zu trennen. Grundgesetze lösen sich auf der festesten Staaten, Und es lös’t der Besitz sich los vom alten Besitzer, Freund sich los von Freund; so lös’t sich Liebe von Liebe. […] Nur ein Fremdling, sagt man mit Recht, ist der Mensch hier auf Erden. Mehr ein Fremdling als jemals, ist nun ein jeder geworden. Uns gehört der Boden nicht mehr; es wandern die Schätze; Gold und Silber schmilzt aus den alten heiligen Formen; Alles regt sich, als wollte die Welt, die gestaltete, rückwärts Lösen in Chaos und Nacht sich auf, und neu sich gestalten. Du bewahrst mir dein Herz; und finden dereinst wir uns wieder Über den Trümmern der Welt, so sind wir erneute Geschöpfe, Umgebildet und frei und unabhängig vom Schicksal.245 (HD IX, 262–277) From the historical finding of an end-time, lawless and chaotic state, the revolutionary wittily derives (at least for his bride) a kind of secularized religion of love  Depending on the perspective, Dorothea and the first bridegroom can thus also be seen as allegorical adulterers: Dorothea because she betrays her first husband’s ideals with Herrmann, the first bridegroom because he jilted his bride for the revolution. 244  According to Wagner, “Hermann und Dorothea in the Context of Kant and Voß”, p. 182: “Goethe’s ending leaves two opposites unreconciled. Dorothea’s message stands juxtaposed with Hermann’s contradiction, offering not closure but a paradox. The truth of this paradox is that the future remains open; Goethe does not presume to predict how long patriarchy, or men’s infatuation with war will prevail.” 245  “Live happily, he said. I go; for all things move / Now on earth once, it all seems to separate. / Fundamental laws dissolve on the most solid states, / And the possession is loosed from the old owner, / Friend from friend, and love from love. / […] /Only a stranger, it is rightly said, is man here on earth. / More of a stranger than ever, each has now become. / We no longer own the soil; the treasures wander; / Gold and silver melts from the ancient sacred forms; / Everything is stirring, as if the world, the designed one, wanted to go backward / Dissolve into chaos and night, and remake themselves. / You keep your heart for me, and one day we’ll find each other again… / Above the ruins of the world, so are we renewed creatures, / Ambient and free and independent of fate.” 243

4.3  Herrmann und Dorothea: Epic Disguise


that exhorts present enjoyment under the sign of lost love. Herrmann counters such universal vacillation with a sacralized economy, a defense of home, house, and nation: Nicht dem Deutschen geziemt es, die fürchterliche Bewegung Fortzuleiten, und auch zu wanken hierhin und dorthin. Dies ist unser! so laß uns sagen und so es behaupten! Denn es werden noch stets die entschlossenen Völker gepriesen, Die für Gott und Gesetz, für Eltern, Weiber und Kinder Stritten und gegen den Feind zusammenstehend erlagen. Du bist mein; und nun ist das Meine meiner als jemals.246 (HD I, 304–311) More directly, the courted and acquired love of the spouse can hardly be transferred to the love of the German people.247 As allegorical, the marriage covenant replaces the dissolved fundamental laws and establishes a community based on a common territory (rather than a common past).248 The possession of the woman, the boundary of the family estate, becomes the possession of a new territory, the new boundary of the German people. “Am Schlusse des Gedichts” (“At the conclusion of the poem”), Victor Hehn puts it more succinctly than some other modern textual exegetes, “spricht er [Herrmann] eine standhafte patriotische Gesinnung aus, aber nur weil der gewonnene Besitz eines geliebten Weibes ihn mit der Empfindung des Eigentums überhaupt erfüllt hat” (“he [Herrmann] pronounces a steadfast patriotic sentiment, but only because winning the possession of a beloved woman has filled him with the sensation of ownership at all.”)249

 “It does not behoove the German to make the dreadful movement… / To lead away, and also to waver hither and thither. / This is ours! so let us say and so let us claim it! / For the determined peoples are still praised, / Who for God and law, for parents, wives and children. / Struggling and standing together against the enemy, they succumbed. / Thou art mine; and now mine is mine than ever.” 247  The two final speeches are naturally interpreted differently. All recent research on the text either revalues the revolutionary’s speech against the one-sided nationalist reception (see especially Peter Morgan, “The Polarization of Utopian Idealism and Practical Politics in the Idyll. The Role of the First ‘Bräutigam’ in Goethe’s Hermann und Dorothea,” The German Quarterly 57 (1984), 532–545). Or she emphasizes the dialogic aspect of the two speeches; or she does not go into the final speeches at all. Kluge, “Hermann und Dorothea”, for example, suggests that both speeches– as a theoretical insight into and practical consequence of the revolution– should be linked quasi ‘reform-logically’. 248  Cf. the beginning of Herrmann’s speech: “Desto fester sei, bei der allgemeinen Erschüttrung, / Dorothea, der Bund!” (HD IX, 299f.) 249  Hehn, Ueber Goethes Hermann und Dorothea, p.90. 246


4 Between Märchen andNovel: Goethe’s Marriage Experiments

‘Purely Human’: Between Aesthetic andNational Norm The political-aesthetic experiment of Herrmann und Dorothea lies in the totalization of the couple as pars pro toto for the community; its national and chauvinistic appropriation need not be traced in detail here.250 What should be shown is how the ‘epic’ and the ‘marital’ form are experimentally brought closer together, thereby achieving a normativity that is as aesthetic as it is political. While matrimonial law as ‘Homeric law’ is not asserted, it is suggested with every line.251 In Dorothea, religion and politics are interiorized so that only poets, mothers, and children seem necessary for a successful marriage and peace. Literature becomes a comprehensive, (national) literary educational institution that ideally renders state politics superfluous. It was precisely in this sense, as an unheard-of, new ‘folk art’, that the text was conceived by Wilhelm von Humboldt, August Wilhelm Schlegel and other contemporaries. Schiller had the idea of anchoring the text in folk custom: “Ich wünschte in allem Ernst, es kämen in dieser speculationsreichen Zeit einige gute Köpfe auf den Einfall, ein Gedicht, wie unser Hermann und Dorothea ist, von Dorf zu Dorf auf Kirchweihen und Hochzeiten zu recitieren und so die alte Zeit der Rhapsoden […] zurückzuführen” (“I wish in all seriousness that in these speculation-­ rich times some good heads would hit upon the idea of reciting a poem, such as our Hermann und Dorothea, from village to village at church fairs and weddings, and thus bring back the old time of the rhapsodes […]”).252 And Goethe’s mother writes to her son that the pastor Hufnagel draws on his text for wedding ceremonies: “Hufnagel ist so ganz davon belebt, daß er bei Kopulationen und wo es nur möglich ist, Gebrauch davon macht … Er behauptet, so hättest Du noch gar nichts geschrieben” (“Hufnagel is so completely animated by it that he makes use of it at weddings and wherever possible … He claims that you have not yet written anything like it”).253 For Wilhelm von Humboldt, Herrmann und Dorothea becomes an individual case by which the ‘essence’ of (national) art and (national) poet can be determined in equal measure, as well as an occasion for writing one of the first monographs on a literary text. He writesist hat “Kunst ist die Fertigkeit, die Einbildungskraft nach Gesetzen productiv zu machen” (“Art is the skill of making the imagination productive according to laws.”)254 Neither Göcking’s anecdotal  Cf. Heinz Helmerking, Hermann und Dorothea. Entstehung, Ruhm und Wesen, Zurich: Artemis 1948; Paul Michael Lützeler, Hermann und Dorothea (1797), in: id., McLeod (eds.), Goethes Erzählwerk, pp.216–265. 251  Cf. on the relationship between epic, law and religion in Homer Joachim Harst, “‘Homeric Law’. Eid, Ehe und Verbindlichkeit im griechischen Epos”, in: Christian Hiebaum, Susanne Knaller, Doris Pichler (eds.), Recht und Literatur im Zwischenraum. Aktuelle inter- und transdisziplinäre Zugänge, Bielefeld: transcript 2015, pp.225–257. 252  Quoted in: Schmidt (ed.), Johann Wolfgang Goethe. Hermann und Dorothea, pp.101 and 104. 253  Catharina Elisabeth Goethe to Goethe on 4 December 1798; quoted in: Goethes Werke. Gedichte und Epen II, vol. 2 (Hamburger Ausgabe), ed. Erich Trunz, Munich: Beck17 2005, p.739. 254  Humboldt, Ueber Göthes Herrmann und Dorothea, p.138. 250

4.3  Herrmann und Dorothea: Epic Disguise


finding nor plot subtleties are worth mentioning to him; instead, he celebrates the abstract golden era of a ‘human race’ that stands out artistically and nationally from other ‘races’ by seeming to directly inherit the origin of Homer and proving superior to other ‘cultural’ depravations by creating itself. Imaginative power of work, poet and reader merge in a “vollkommne Objectivität und Gesetzmässigkeit” (“perfect objectivity and lawfulness”), of which Herrmann und Dorothea is supposed to be the expression: Dadurch gelangt er [der Dichter; Anm. D.S.] zu der einen und hohen Objectivität, die wir nun stufenweis beschrieben haben; dadurch nöthigt er unsre Einbildungskraft, nicht bloss überhaupt bildend zu verfahren, nicht bloss überhaupt sinnliche Gestalten hervorzurufen, sondern ununterbrochen fort allein an der Erzeugung des Einen Gegenstandes zu arbeiten, der ihn selbst begeistert, und sich mit ihm nur durch die vollendete Darstellung dieser Einen Form zu befriedigen.255 This ‘one form’ is genre and generation in the strongest sense: “Die fortschreitende Veredlung unsres Geschlechts, geleitet durch die Fügung des Schicksals, macht also, in einer einzelnen Begebenheit dargestellt, den Stoff unsres Gedichts aus” (“The progressive ennoblement of our race, guided by the providence of fate, constitutes therefore, represented in a single incident, the material of our poem”).256 Instead of a presupposed law, “in dem ganzen Gedicht der schöne Geist der Billigkeit” (“in the whole poem the beautiful spirit of equity”) prevails, and section by section the philosopher of art formulates the old and new ‘laws’ of bourgeois epopee,257 which are at the same time those of the “Deutsches Geschlecht und am Schluss unsres Jahrhunderts” (“German race and at the end of our century”).258 As an initial moment of action, Humboldt names the moment when Herrmann catches sight of Dorothea and his (arguably equilibrated) passion is kindled. The perception of the ‘virgin’ replaces the intervention of the gods and the miraculous of the ancient epic’. In this he agrees with Schlegel, who– as a Romantic– more explicitly names “die Liebe” (“love”) as a substitute for myth: “Der große Hebel, womit in unsern angeblichen Schilderungen des Privatlebens, Romanen und Schauspielen, meist Alles in Bewegung gesetzt wird, ist die Liebe” (“The great lever with which in our alleged depictions of private

 “In this way, he [the poet; D.S.’s note] arrives at the one and high objectivity that we have now described step by step; in this way, he compels our imagination not merely to proceed in a generally formative manner, not merely to call forth sensuous figures in general, but to continue working uninterruptedly solely on the production of the one object that inspires him, and to satisfy himself with it only through the perfect representation of this one form.” Ibid., p.210. 256  Ibid., p.309. 257  Cf. Ibid., pp. 310–321: highest sensuality, continuous steadiness, unity, balance, totality and pragmatic truth. On the critique of Humboldt’s (and Goethe’s) bourgeois ideology in Herrmann und Dorothea, cf. Christa Bürger, “Hermann und Dorothea oder: Die Wirklichkeit als Ideal”, in: Barner, Lämmert, Oellers (eds.), Unser Commercium, pp.485–505. 258  Humboldt, Ueber Göthes Herrmann und Dorothea, p.304. 255


4 Between Märchen andNovel: Goethe’s Marriage Experiments

life, novels and plays, everything is usually set in motion, is love”).259 Schlegel profiles this love in precisely that social, charitable dimension that affects the community as a whole: it is not “romanhafte Leidenschaft” (“novelistic passion”), but rather “biedre, herzliche Neigung, auf Vertrauen und Achtung gegründet, und in Eintracht mit allen Pflichten des thätigen Lebens” (“lowly, cordial affection, founded on trust and respect, and in harmony with all the duties of an active life”), something “Wunderbares, wie es in einem Epos aus unsrer Zeit einzig stattfinden darf; nämlich nicht ein sinnlicher Reiz für Neugier, sondern eine Aufforderung zur Theilbeteilnahme, an die Menschheit gerichtet” (“wonderful, as it may only take place in an epic from our time; namely not a sensual stimulus for curiosity, but an invitation to participate, addressed to mankind.”)260 For Humboldt, as for Schlegel, the suddenness of the male decision lies in this ‘epic’ love, to which Dorothea’s inclination can only be confession. And if one accepts Herrmann’s final speech as the last words of the text, they are even more patriarchal than the involuntary wedding words of Voß’s house priest, who allowed himself to be overwhelmed by his daughter’s adornment– and not by her ‘active love’.261 With the military successes against Napoleon’s army, and also with the advance of capitalization and industrialization, the aesthetic popularization of the text finally shifts to the national. In the third and final volume of his Naturgeschichte des Volkes, Wilhelm Heinrich Riehl invokes a ‘house of the nation’ as the basis of a German social policy against socialization, industrialization, and the female and Lumpenproletariat, which seeks to help women regain their rightful place in the small house of the ‘whole house’. He argues for the emancipation of women through the politicisation of the family, quoting the notorious, potentially dialectical passage about the ‘woman’ from Herrmann und Dorothea: Das deutsche Haus baut sich auf wie die gothische Kirche: von Innen nach Außen. So wird aus dem Innern der Familien heraus die Stellung von Mann und Weib wieder ins Loth gebracht werden müssen. Dann wird auch wieder herrlich erfüllt werden, was so wunderbar schön von dem Beruf der Frauen gesagt hat und was ich den ächten deutschen Frauen zur Erbauung, den modernen Damen aber zum Trutz als den rechten Zimmermannsspruch hierhersetzen will, da ich nun den letzten Balken zum äußeren Fachwerk meiner Familie aufgeschlagen: „Dienen lerne bei Zeiten das Weib nach ihrer Bestimmung; Denn durch Dienen allein gelangt sie endlich zum Herrschen, Zu der verdienten Gewalt, die doch ihr im Hause gehöret. Dienet die Schwester dem Bruder doch früh, sie dienet den Eltern, Und ihr Leben ist immer ein ewiges Gehen und Kommen, Oder ein Heben und Tragen, Bereiten und Schaffen für Andre.  August Wilhelm Schlegel, “Goethes Hermann und Dorothea (1798)”; quoted in: Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Hermann und Dorothea, Frankfurt a. M.: Insel 1976, pp.125–156. 260  Ibid., p.145. 261  On this point, therefore, I would disagree with Irmgard Wagner (“Hermann and Dorothea in the Context of Kant and Voß”), who reads Goethe’s text as a provocation of Voß’s patriarchal design. 259

4.3  Herrmann und Dorothea: Epic Disguise


Wohl ihr, wenn sie daran sich gewöhnt, daß kein Weg ihr zu sauer Wird und die Stunden der Nacht ihr sind wie die Stunden des Tages, Daß ihr niemals die Arbeit zu klein und die Nadel zu fein dünkt, Daß sie sich ganz vergißt und leben mag nur in Andern!“262

While Goethe may have built his ‘Wirtshaus’ progressively against the ‘Franks’, it is increasingly becoming a restorative house in a state that is economically coming apart at the seams. The text is used by feuilletonists, scientists, politicians and schoolmen to establish law and order as the order of the sexes. It is forgotten that the political-aesthetic experiment itself was already carried out according to the criterion of success and economic logic. Schiller writes to Goethe a quarter of a year after the appearance of the text: “In Hermann und Dorothea habe ich, was das Material betrifft, den Deutschen einmal ihren Willen getan, und nun sind sie äußerst zufrieden. Ich überlege jetzt, ob man nicht auf eben diesem Wege ein dramatisches Stück schreiben könnte? das auf allen Theatern gespielt werden müßte und das jedermann für fürtrefflich erklärte, ohne daß es der Autor selbst dafür zu halten brauchte” (“In Hermann und Dorothea I have, as far as the material is concerned, once done the Germans their will, and now they are extremely satisfied. I am now considering whether it would not be possible to write a dramatic play in this very way? which would have to be played at all the theatres, and which everyone would declare to be worthwhile, without the author himself needing to think it so”).263 The Marriage as Peace Covenant has remained experiment, probably without its author believing it. And instead of a comparable play, a novel has emerged that experiments once again with marriage, but only to show that couple relationships cannot be reconciled with the order of society.

 “The German house builds itself up like the Gothic church: from the inside to the outside. Thus, from within the families, the position of man and woman will have to be brought back into balance. Then what was said so wonderfully beautiful about the profession of women and what I want to put here for the edification of true German women, but for the protection of modern ladies, as the right carpenter’s saying, will be gloriously fulfilled again, now that I have put up the last beam for the outer framework of my family: / Let a woman learn in time to serve according to her purpose..; / For it is through service alone that she finally attains to rule, / To the power that is hers in the house… / If the sister serves the brother early, she serves the parents, / And their life is always an eternal going and coming, / Or a lifting and carrying, preparing and creating for Andre. / Happy is she when she gets used to the fact that no road is too sour for her. / Will and the hours of the night are to her as the hours of the day, / That she may never think the work too small or the needle too fine, / That she may forget herself altogether and live only in others!” Wilhelm Heinrich Riehl, Die Naturgeschichte des Volkes als Grundlage einer deutschen Social-Politik, 3rd volume: “Die Familie”, Stuttgart: Cotta6 1862 (1854), p.112. 263  Goethe to Schiller, without date quoted in: Lützeler, “Hermann und Dorothea (1797),” p.217. 262


4 Between Märchen andNovel: Goethe’s Marriage Experiments

4.4 Die Wahlverwandtschaften: Representation oftheProduction ofa(Decision Not to) Divorce Goethe’s novel is a palimpsest of discourse in which knowledge– chemical, mythological, botanical, architectural, legal, political, religious– is intertwined with the ‘private stories’ of the novel’s characters in an almost dizzying manner.264 In the following reading, I assume a privileging of legal discourse. Marriage or matrimonial law, according to my initial thesis, is– in the sense of Goethe’s ‘symbolic’ technique of telling images and stories ‘in parallel’– given the function of a reflexive instance, which the text fictionalizes in the form of the novel. Presumably this poetic and rhetorical shift– since Benjamin’s famous phrase “Der Gegenstand der Wahlverwandtschaften ist nicht die Ehe” (“The object of Wahlverwandtschaften is not marriage”) – explains the neverending polemic in the literature on Die Wahlverwandtschaften about whether or not the novel is about marriage.265 It probably also explains the fact that the law discourse in the novel is still given too little attention, because it inextricably intertwines the question of legal and aesthetic judgment.266 The lexeme ‘recht/Recht’ (‘right’) occurs 17 times in the first chapter alone, and in the entire novel no less than 160 times spread over 260 pages.267

 Cf. Gabriele Brandstetter (ed.), Erzählen und Wissen. Paradigmen und Aporien ihrer Inszenierung in Goethes Wahlverwandtschaften, Freiburg i. Br.: Rombach 2003. 265  Walter Benjamin, Goethes Wahlverwandtschaften (1924), in Ders, Gesammelte Schriften, vol. I.1, ed. Rolf Tiedemann and Hermann Schweppenhäuser, Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp 1980 (1974), pp.123–201; here: p.131. 266  Curiously, in the three important recent anthologies on Die Wahlverwandtschaften, no contribution is explicitly devoted to the legal discourse in the novel. (cf. Norbert Bolz (ed.), Goethes Wahlverwandtschaften. Kritische Modelle und Diskursanalysen zum Mythos Literatur, Hildesheim: Gerstenberg 1981; Brandstetter (ed.), Erzählen und Wissen; Hühn (ed.), Goethes “Wahlverwandtschaften”). Also in Klaus Lüderssen (ed.), ‘Die wahre Liberalität ist Anerkennung’. Goethe und die Jurisprudenz, Baden-Baden: Nomos 1999, one looks in vain for the Wahlverwandtschaften. On the other hand, central to the legal discourse in this novel (and also to what follows) are the three works by Uwe Diederichsen, ‘Goethes Wahlverwandtschaften– auch ein juristischer Roman?’, Goethe-Jahrbuch 118 (2001), 142–157; Ders, “Die Wahlverwandtschaften als Werk des Juristen Goethe,” Neue Juristische Wochenschrift 57 (2004), 537–544; Ders, “Goethe’s Elective Affinities and State Marriage Legislation in Modern Times,” in Sibylle Hofer, Diethelm Klippel, Ute Walter (eds.), Perspektiven des Familienrechts. Festschrift für Dieter Schwab zum 70. Geburtstag am 15. August 2005, Bielefeld: Gieseking 2005, pp.41–67. Cf. also already the small study by Andreas Bloch, “Goethes Die Wahlverwandtschaften (von 1809)– die Ehe im Werk und in der Wirklichkeit”, FamRZ 40/12 (1993), 1409–1413; and most recently: Julia S.Happ, “Attractio electiva duplex als fatale Romanpoetik. Eherechts- und Scheidungsexperimente in Goethe’s Wahlverwandtschaften”, in: Yvonne Nilges (ed.), Dichterjuristen. Studien zur Poesie des Rechts vom 16. bis 21. Jahrhundert, Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann 2014, pp.91–105 (in which Diederichsen’s preliminary work, however, is unfortunately not considered). 267  According to the results of a hit search on the digital version of Die Wahlverwantschaften at (2016-09-06). 264

4.4  Die Wahlverwandtschaften: Representation of the Production…


The discourse of marriage plays a role on different levels, which, compared to the chemical or mythological level of meaning, for example, predestines it to ascribe to the novel’s plot a ‘symbolic’ meaning that mediates the individual and the collective. First, when the characters talk about marriage, they are talking about their own life plans, such as Charlotte and Eduard in the first chapter of the novel, where they deliberate whether to take in their friend Otto. Second, however, they also discuss marriage as a legal institution in an abstract way. Consider, for example, the conversation Charlotte and Eduard have with the Count and Baroness, who are friends, in which the Count proposes legislation to relativize the indissolubility of marriage.268 Third, the novel’s plot itself provokes the question of law: the story resembles a detective story-like marital war that has been repeatedly described as tragic, ending with a widowed wife burying her foster daughter Ottilie and her husband as lovers after her own son.269 Does this mean that Edward and Charlotte’s marriage fails, rightly or wrongly? What does it mean when, at the novel’s conclusion, “die Liebenden [Eduard und Ottilie] neben einander” (“the lovers [Eduard and Ottilie rest] beside each other”) and “Friede” (“peace”) “über ihrer Stätte [schwebt]” (“[hovers] over their gravesite”) (W II.18, 529)? Who is being decided upon, the dead, the survivors, everyone? Is it decided at all, or rather is a decision suspended? A glance at the philology of Die Wahlverwandtschaften shows that these questions seem somehow arbitrarily answerable. But that is to say that the novel is not a marriage, but a representation of a marriage. As a novel, they thus narrate– much like Manzoni’s I promessi sposi – not so much a ‘realist’ as a ‘legal’ origin of the modern novel. Situated in a gray zone between law and literature, Goethe’s novel can be understood as a ‘representation of the making of decisions’270 that aspires to be at once more and less than ‘represented reality’ (Auerbach).271 That it is precisely on this third level that an autopoetic function of law and poetics is at stake, as is hinted  Cf. Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Werther. Wahlverwandtschaften. Kleine Prosa. Epen, ed. Waltraud Wiethölter, (=Vol. 8 of the Frankfurt edition), Frankfurt a. M.: Deutscher Klassiker Verlag im Taschenbuch 2006 (1994), chap. I.10 (hereafter cited– with the sigle W, part, chapter and page references– directly in the text).– It is about the proposals to conclude a marriage initially only for five years and to introduce the criterion of indissolubility only from the third marriage on. The proposal to limit the duration of marriages is found in the work of the Enlightenment philosopher Étienne-Gabriel Morelly (1717–1778), cf. Schwab, Grundlagen und Gestalt der staatlichen Ehegesetzgebung, p. XY. 269  In distinguishing the first two levels, I borrow from Diederichsen, “Wahlverwandtschaften und Ehegesetzgebung,” p.47. 270  In doing so, I take up a definition of law by Ino Augsberg, which he develops in opposition to Luhmann’s autopoiesis thesis: Ino Augsberg, “Recht als autopoetisches System. (Gesetz und Gestell)”, in Hiebaum etal. (eds.), Recht und Literatur im Zwischenraum, pp.135–154; here: p.145. 271  Cf. also Auerbach’s comments on Goethe in the second part of the Schiller chapter: “As a result, it remains that Goethe never presented the reality of contemporary life dynamically, never as the germ of emerging and future forms. Where he deals with the tendencies of the nineteenth century, it is in general observations, and these are almost always judgmental, predominantly suspicious and dismissive.” (Erich Auerbach, Mimesis. Dargestellte Wirklichkeit in der abendländischen Literatur, Tübingen/Basel: Francke9 1994 (1946), p.419.) 268


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at by Goethe in a letter to Karl Friedrich von Reinhard when, against the background of the scandalous success of his novel, he writes to him: “Das Gedichtete behauptet sein Recht, wie das Geschehene” (“The poetical asserts its right, as has happened)”.272 The juridical perspectivization of the novel only becomes clear together with the metaphorical function of marriage, as in the novellas of Die Ausgewanderten and Herrmann und Dorothea. ‘Marriage’ is the potential order that harmoniously unites continuity and rupture, which is tentatively set against the revolution that radically breaks with the past and possessions. Although it has already been shown, even for Die Wahlverwantschaften, how every character, almost every event or incident, alludes to the political context of the Revolution,273 the question remains why the novel should be a novel of revolution and marriage, why it can be read – like Rousseau’s Nouvelle Héloïse – as a novel of marriage and adultery, why its experimental order is precisely this and no other: an exchange of partners that does not come about, an avoidance of divorce instead of (neither single nor double) establishment of marriage and state.274 These questions will accompany the following reading, which is critical of marriage and law, with the hypothesis that the novel– following Rousseau’s Nouvelle Héloïse275 and more radical– deprives the couple of all community-creating function.276 In doing so, I am deliberately echoing Benjamin’s controversial criticism of the novel, according to which Goethe surrendered the “Wahrheitsgehalt” (“truth content”) of the text to the mere appearance of beauty (i.e. Ottilie’s profane martyrdom). The novella of the neighbouring children embedded in the novel forms the centre from which a transcendent concept of marriage can be read. Whether the novella is to be understood as an antithesis of the novel or ‘merely’ as a variation of the main plot is a question that has continued to be controversially discussed in the philology of Wahlverwandtschaften ever since.  Goethe to Karl Friedrich von Reinhard on 31 December 1809; quoted in: Goethe, Werther. Wahlverwandtschaften. Kleine Prosa. Epen, ed. Wiethölter, p.982. 273  Cf. Reschke, “Zeit der Umwendung.” 274  Reschke’s overarching thesis of a transformation of the “socio-psychological conflicts in the transition from the cultural order of the masculine-paternal coded feudal society to the cultural order of the feminine-maternal coded bourgeois society” (“Zeit der Umwendung”, p.34) remains unsatisfactory because it is not related to the novel’s plot, and thus the relationship between gender order and gender coding remains unclear. But when the state-political conflict of domination and subordination is counter-gendered, one cannot avoid the question of whether and how it is resolved. 275  Cf. Anneliese Botond, Die Wahlverwandtschaften. Transformation und Kritik der neuen Héloïse, Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann 2006. 276  Wolf and Friedrich Kittler also argue with Foucault and Lacan that there can be no intercourse of the sexes. This is exemplified by the novel’s repressed couple Ottilie and the Captain as symbolic mother and official of the Prussian administrative state. The omission of this constellation undermines the seemingly chemical experiment from the outset. Cf. Wolf Kittler [alluding to Goethe’s famous remark to Friedrich Wilhelm Riemer], “Goethes Wahlverwandtschaften. Sociale Verhältnisse symbolisch dargestellt” and Friedrich A. Kittler, “Ottilie Hauptmann,” both in: Bolz (ed.), Goethes Wahlverwandtschaften, pp.230–259 and pp.260–275. While the text, by remaining silent about Ottilie and the Hauptmann, proclaims the bourgeois (marital) order of power, I would rather say that it still buries it– the order of mothers and civil servants based on the division of labour. 272

4.4  Die Wahlverwandtschaften: Representation of the Production…


Not only in Wahlverwandtschaften, but also in Benjamin’s Wahlverwandtschaften essay, marriage marks a “blinden Fleck” (“blind spot”),277 which has provoked irritation, aversion or over-reading in response. In Benjamin’s dialectical procedure, marriage is not the centre of Goethe’s novel, but it emerges from the periphery of a ‘purity’ that Benjamin calls the “nächste menschliche Verbundenheit” (“closest human connection”) and to which he ascribes the power “ in der Ehe […] buchstäblich auch sein Metaphorisches zu machen” (“in marriage [to become] strong enough to make literal what is metaphorical in it”)278 he derives marriage as a synthesis that Sigrid Weigel has described in terms of ‘fidelity’ and ‘supernatural life’ and which I would hereafter call a right of the ontological status’ of the couple that Goethe’s novel denies with its representation.

From theAttempt totheFall While Goethe makes the bourgeois and the inn the centre of social change in his epic, the novel is about the ‘institutions’ of the nobility. The two literary experiments correlate epic, bourgeoisie, happy endings on the one hand, novel, nobility, failure on the other; here as there it is the passions that set the plot – and social change– in motion. Whereas in Herrmann und Dorothea a fragile but new, ‘German’ inn is envisaged through the measured inclusion of the revolutionary and the topographical demarcation from the dangerous outside (beyond the Rhine), in Wahlverwandtschaften an inevitable revolution is wreaking havoc within the noble house.279 The question of the admission of the third party arises in the novel from the very first chapter, and the narrator undertakes from the outset to place this admission under the sign of an unpleasant necessity. Eduard and Charlotte are both widowed and, having satisfied the obligation of the aristocratic marriage of convenience, have legalized their childhood love in a second marriage. Charlotte sums up the conditions of the making of their ‘post-summer marriage’, but leaves much uncertain, not least the marriage itself. “Wir liebten einander als junge Leute recht herzlich; wir wurden getrennt” (“We loved each other quite warmly as young people; we were separated”) (W I.1, 275). Both partners were forced to enter into arranged marriages of convenience by their parents: Eduard with an older, wealthy  This observation by Sigrid Weigel (“Treue, Liebe, Eros. Benjamin’s Lebenswissenschaft in Goethes Wahlverwandtschaften”, in: Helmut Hühn, Jan Urbich, Uwe Steiner (eds.), Benjamins Wahlverwandtschaften. Zur Kritik einer programmatischen Interpretation, Berlin: Suhrkamp 2015, pp.174–194; here: p.174) can only be agreed with. The turning away from the ‘theologian’ of the Elective Affinities essay runs leitmotifically through the volume by Bolz (ed.), Goethes Wahlverwandtschaften. 278  Benjamin, Goethes Wahlverwandtschaften, p.189. 279  While Hegel has given the cue of the ‘background’ and the ‘playing into’ the revolution for Herrmann und Dorothea, the classification of the function of the political in Die Wahlverwandtschaften is much more problematic. Reschke speaks of a text about revolution and a text of revolution (cf. his discussion of the political in the introduction to Zeit der Umwendung, pp.13–39). Perhaps, more cautiously, it would be better to speak of the text of a revolution. 277


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woman, Charlotte with an equally wealthy and respected man. Their second ­marriage, however, is not based on spontaneous mutual consent; rather, Charlotte has submitted to Eduard: Wir wurden wieder frei; du früher, indem dich dein Mütterchen im Besitz eines großen Vermögens ließ; ich später, eben zu der Zeit, da du von Reisen zurückkamst. […] Du drangst auf eine Verbindung; ich willigte nicht gleich: denn da wir ohngefähr von denselben Jahren sind, so bin ich als Frau wohl älter geworden, du nicht als Mann. Zuletzt wollte ich dir nicht versagen, was du für dein einziges Glück zu halten schienst.280 (W I.1, 275)

Charlotte agrees to the marriage, although she feels too old and although she had considered marrying her niece Ottilie to Eduard instead of herself (W I.2, 282). In order to be able to live the project of happiness as a couple, she gives Luciane, her daughter from her first marriage, and her niece and foster daughter Ottilie to the boarding house to raise. Legally, the second marriage is based on the principle of freedom of marriage. The flashback to the new marriage, barely a year old, is triggered by Eduard’s desire to take in Otto, the captain, a friend who has just lost his position, at the castle. Just as he has already had to persuade Charlotte to marry him, Eduard must now persuade her a second time. Charlotte is opposed to the Captain’s admission, fearing a disruption of her order; Eduard, on the other hand, hopes to hasten and revitalize her order. The novel begins with a marital quarrel, which Charlotte hints at in a “allgemeinen Bemerkung” (“general remark”) (W I.1, 274) as a gender-related collision of two different ‘rights’: Die Männer denken mehr auf das Einzelne, auf das Gegenwärtige, und das mit Recht, weil sie zu tun, zu wirken berufen sind; die Weiber hingegen mehr auf das was im Leben zusammenhängt, und das mit gleichem Rechte, weil ihr Schicksal, das Schicksal ihrer Familien, an diesen Zusammenhang geknüpft ist, und auch gerade dieses Zusammenhängende von ihnen gefordert wird.281 (W I.1, 274 f.)

If we are talking here about two equally valid rights– the male one of the (individual) deed and the female one of the (genealogical) context– then the question arises as to how these two rights interact in the case of their marriage and what is considered here as the ‘whole’ and the ‘individual’. In terms of marriage law, the dissent over the inclusion of the captain points to the question of the purposes of marriage. Both have emancipated themselves from the old marriage law of their parents, but the new goal they have set for themselves is unclear: children no longer seem to be the issue, given Charlotte’s advanced age. The novel’s entry shows the couple engaged in various activities in the garden. Eduard is pruning trees, omitting  “We became free again; you earlier, in that your mother left you in possession of a large fortune; I later, just at the time when you returned from your travels. […] You urged a union; I did not consent at once: for as we are of about the same years, I have grown older as a woman, you not as a man. At last I did not want to deny you what you seemed to consider your only happiness.” 281  “Men think more of the individual, of the present, and rightly so, because they are called upon to do, to act; women, on the other hand, think more of what is connected in life, and with equal right, because their fate, the fate of their families, is tied to this connection, and it is precisely this connection that is demanded of them.” 280

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what new flowers or fruits are to be produced. Charlotte is busy building the moss hut and replanting the castle grounds, both of them disagreeing about whether the hut should be suitable for just the two of them or also “für einen Dritten” (“for a third”) or even “für ein Viertes” (“for a fourth”) (W I.1, 272).282 In their previous resolutions– idleness, travel-archiving, and lock-renewal– the couple was consensual: Everything had gone according to the will of Eduard, spoiled from an early age, without apparently contradicting Charlotte’s feminine ‘right’ to think big. According to Charlotte, the couple only wanted to “[sich] selbst leben” (“live themselves”) (W I.1, 275), whereby she – ambiguously taking up her own ‘general remark’ about the sexes– took on ‘the inside’, whereas Eduard took on “das Äußere und was ins Ganze geht” (“the outside and what goes into the whole”) (W I.1, 275). But with her objection to the third, Eduard feels “zum erstenmal widersprochen” (“contradicted for the first time”) (W I.2, 279). His persuasions do not lead Charlotte to a mere agreement, but to a “Geständnis” (“confession”) (W I.2, 280), i.e. the formulation of a counter-wish, namely that of bringing Ottilie, the unhappy foster daughter at the boarding school, to the castle. This leads to the attempt that the participants thematize in the further course of the plot as a process of chemical transformation. It could be seen as an attempt at marriage between the two noblemen, in which they put the principle of mutual consensus to the test. Although there is no justiciable case after the first two chapters of the novel, we have long been dealing with the presentation of a case that very much has to do with law. For, after Charlotte’s “ahndungsvoll” (“portentous”) (W I.1, 277) misgivings, does the reader not already suspect that the case is destined to go mercilessly down the drain? The omniscient narrator, starting with a “wir” (“we”), sets up a scene in medias res with the question of the third party that demands a decision. Mittler, who has been described as a “Eheberater avant la lettre” “marriage counsellor avant la lettre”283 and “eine der merkwürdigsten Gestalten der Weltliteratur” (“one of the strangest figures in world literature”)284 and who makes his first grotesque appearance precisely in the second chapter, is not so much a decision-making aid as the repetition of the problem at the level of the character. He refuses the help in the decision-making that Charlotte asks of him, saying, “Ist denn hier ein Streit? […] Glaubt Ihr, daß ich in der Welt bin, um Rat zu geben?” (“Is there a quarrel here? […] Do you think I am in the world to give advice?”) (W I.2, 285) Because there is not yet a legal case, Mittler does not want to intervene. In his own name, he, who “früherhin Geistlicher gewesen” (“used to be a clergyman”) (W I.2, 284), represents the place of the regional colleges, which, since his seemingly self-invented office as mediator, are no longer bothered “with any dealings and lawsuits” (“mit keinen Händeln und Prozessen”) (W I.2, 284). He studied jurisprudence when he realized  Cf. also Ernst Osterkamp, who traces the motif of loneliness on the basis of a reading of the first chapter of the novel (“Einsamkeit und Entsagung in Goethes Wahlverwandtschaften”, in: Hühn (ed.), Goethes “Wahlverwandtschaften”, pp.27–45). 283  David Wellbery, “Die Wahlverwandtschaften (1809),” in Lützeler, McLeod (eds.), Goethes Erzählwerk, p.294. 284  Diederichsen, “Die Wahlverwandtschaften als Werk des Juristen Goethe”, p.539. 282


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that this was more important things for his office than theology; and a “Lotteriegewinst” (“lottery win”) has made him independent of the Landesgewalt. In Mittler, the citizen becomes a diabolical judge without– like the cunning priest in Herrmann und Dorothea – being part of a (state) church. As a figure of mediation, who only wants to mediate when the decision has already been made, he embodies not only a “Scheinjurisprudenz” (“sham jurisprudence”),285 but also the problem of representation of any differentiation.286 When he appears the second time in the novel, making his legendary plea for the indissolubility of marriage as an essentially ‘inconvenient’ right,287 he approaches the four housemates like an approximate schema that only gradually become a character. Eduard does not quite recognise the figure on horseback and has the captain describe ‘the single thing’ which then fits the picture of his ‘whole’: “Die Figur kam näher und Mittler war es wirklich” (“The figure came nearer, and Mittler it really was”). (W I.9, 337) The simultaneous visit of the Count and the Baroness, who are having an extramarital affair, makes him leave in a hurry. Only after the conflict has occurred and Eduard has already left due to his passion for Ottilie does he reappear to mediate. Eduard wants Mittler to effect “Charlottens Einwilligung” (“Charlotte’s consent”) (W I.18, 389) to the divorce. This stalls the marriage mediator– “Mittler stockte”) “Mittler faltered” (W I.18, 390)– much as the visit of the Count and Baroness, which begins with a long conversation about marriage, had already put the company to “eine Stockung” (“a stalemate”) (W I.10, 348). Where his legal skills would be called upon, Mittler relies on procrastination in order to potentially celebrate any event as law at the crucial moment. When he learns from Charlotte that she is pregnant, he presents the child as the “beste Hoffnung, die wir haben können” (“best hope we can have”) (W I.18, 391). Mittler always comes after the event and presents it as ‘indissoluble’. “Er vertraute der lindernden vorüberziehenden Zeit” (“He trusted in the alleviating passing of time”) (W II.15, 506); but this does not mean that his  Ibid.  Cf. Inka Mülder-Bach, “Symbolon – Diabolon. Figuren des Dritten in Goethe’s novel Die Wahlverwandtschaften und Musil’s novella Die Vollendung der Liebe”, in: Gottfried Boehm, Gabriele Brandstetter, Achatz von Müller (eds.), Figur und Figuration. Studies in Perception and Knowledge, Munich: Fink 2007, pp.121–138. 287  Cf. W I.9, 338: “Wer mir den Ehstand angreift, rief er aus, wer mir durch Wort, ja durch Tat, diesen Grund aller sittlichen Gesellschaft untergräbt, der hat es mit mir zu tun; oder wenn ich ihn nicht Herr werden kann, habe ich nichts mit ihm zu tun. Die Ehe ist der Anfang und der Gipfel aller Kultur. Sie macht den Rohen mild, und der Gebildetste hat keine bessre Gelegenheit seine Milde zu beweisen. Unauflöslich muß sie sein: denn sie bringt so vieles Glück, daß alles einzelne Unglück dagegen gar nicht zu rechnen ist. Und was will man von Unglück reden? Ungeduld ist es, die den Menschen von Zeit zu Zeit anfällt, und dann beliebt er sich unglücklich zu finden. Lasse man den Augenblick vorübergehen, und man wird sich glücklich preisen, daß ein so lange Bestandenes noch besteht. Sich zu trennen gibt’s gar keinen hinlänglichen Grund. Der menschliche Zustand ist so hoch in Leiden und Freuden gesetzt, daß gar nicht berechnet werden kann, was ein Paar Gatten einander schuldig werden. Es ist eine unendliche Schuld, die nur durch die Ewigkeit abgetragen werden kann. Unbequem mag es manchmal sein, das glaub’ ich wohl, und das ist eben Recht. Sind wir nicht auch mit dem Gewissen verheiratet? das wir oft gerne los sein möchten, weil es unbequemer ist als uns je ein Mann oder eine Frau werden könnte.” 285 286

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strategy was limited to passively sitting it out. Rather, Mittler illustrates how, in his approximate ‘legal scheme’,288 justiciable cases become indistinguishable from the everyday case of life and death. Reliably, he is present again in the final chapter, where still “kein Schritt zur Scheidung der Gatten geschehen” (“no step has been taken towards the divorce of the spouses”) (W II.18, 519), to bring this revolutionary conception of law to bear. He now supplements his remarks on the marriage state with those on the harmfulness of prohibitions, because they bring about the violation of law in the first place. With his criticism of the sixth commandment– “Thou shalt not commit adultery”– as “grob” (“gross”) and “unanständig” (“indecent”), he hastens the death of Ottilie, whose “Gestalt” (“form”) is “verwandelt” (“transformed”) on hearing Mittler’s words (W II.18, 520f.). With her death, however, the problem of divorce in the novel becomes superfluous. Mittler’s character represents the contingency of legal orders, however contrary or even separated by revolution. His most telling act in the novel in this regard is the baptism of the child Otto. He takes over, indeed completes, the office of the old clergyman, who has “mit einem Fuß schon im Grabe” (“one foot already in the grave”), recalls his own earlier “Amtsverrichtungen” (“official duties”), and gives a new twist to the baptismal performance by beginning to put himself “gegen das Ende des Akts, mit Behaglichkeit […] an die Stelle des Geistlichen zu versetzen” (“towards the end of the act, comfortably […] in the clergyman’s place”) (W II.8, 456 f.). In complete disregard of the problematic circumstances under which the ‘monstrous’ child came into being, he praises it with the words of the old Jew Simeon, who beheld Christ (cf. Lk 2, 25–35), as the new “Heiland dieses Hauses” (“saviour of this house”) (W II.9, 458) And thereby at the same time lets the old clergy go to their death: “Und Sie, mein würdiger Altvater, können nunmehr mit Simeon sprechen: Herr laß deinen Diener in Frieden fahren; denn meine Augen haben den Heiland dieses Hauses gesehen” (“And you, my worthy old father, can now speak with Simeon: Lord let thy servant depart in peace; for mine eyes have seen the Saviour of this house”). (W II.9, 458) Mittler quotes the words to praise Edward and Charlotte’s ‘restored’ marriage as a new order of salvation, applying a quotation whose rhetoric had already been exposed in the political context. It is part of that dense intertextual web of Die Wahlverwandtschaften that repeatedly places the private attempt at marriage reform against the backdrop of revolutionary social change.289 In his Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), Edmund Burke in particular disarmed his pro-revolutionary opponent Richard Price by reproaching him for having stolen the biblical words he quoted, with which he exalted the revolution in messianic terms, from the forerunner who 150years earlier had tried to justify the trial of Charles I with the same Nunc Dimittis. Burke disavows the supposedly redeeming child of the Revolution as a monstrous facies hippocratica. The  On the schema in constitutional law as an example of the figurality of law s. Fabian Steinhauer, “Figuren, Schemata, Schemen”, in: Ino Augsberg, Sophie-Charlotte Lenski (eds.), Die Innenwelt der Außenwelt der Innenwelt des Rechts. Approaches between Legal and Literary Studies, Munich: Fink 2012, pp.43–58. 289  Cf. Reschke, “Zeit der Umwendung,” pp.146–161 (“Mittler, revolutionsbezogen”). 288


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trial of Charles I, in turn, is recalled by Ottilie to justify her (in Charlotte’s view insubordinate) service as an involuntary reaction, as it were, to revolutionary disempowerment. When the novel’s narrator has Mittler proclaim Otto’s hermaphroditic figure, who literally embodies marriage and parting, “mit Behaglichkeit” (“with comfort”) as the new savior of the house, he not only levels the distinction between right and wrong and shakes up the binary code between right and wrong.290 He mimes the right, he exhibits it in his words. As a “hinfällige Figur des Rechts” (“lapsed figure of law”)291 he shows how any event can be presented as normative (the birth of Otto as a biblical fulfillment), but also how any norm can be exposed as a false norm (be it the biblical prohibition of adultery or even the prohibition of killing). Assessing the effect(s) of this legal mimesis of Mittler in the Die Wahlverwandtschaften depends on what one’s understanding of marriage, marriage law, and law is. Charlotte, at any rate, is “unzufrieden” (“displeased”) “über Miller” (“with Mittler”): “Sein rasches Wesen brachte manches Gute hervor, aber seine Übereilung war Schuld an manchem Mißlingen. Niemand war abhängiger von augenblicklich vorgefaßten Meinungen als er” (“His quick nature produced many a good thing, but his hastiness was to blame for many a failure. No one was more dependent on instantly preconceived opinions than he”). (W I.18, 392) Just as the novelist’s opening between trial and fall destabilizes readers in what might be called the sense of right, so Mittler destabilizes his characters in this sense. Consequently, his monologue on marriage culminates in the statement of an essential (dis)comfort not only of marriage but of human existence par excellence: “Sind wir nicht auch mit dem Gewissen verheiratet? das wir oft gerne los sein möchten, weil es unbequemer ist als uns je ein Mann oder eine Frau werden könnte” (“Are we not also married to conscience?which we would often like to be rid of, because it is more uncomfortable than a man or woman could ever become to us.”) (W I.9, 338).

Escalations One can now ask whether the trial actually becomes a justiciable case in the course of the novel. In this context, the opposing movement of main plot and subplot(s), which is so typical of the novel and which has also been described as the oppositional pair of narration and knowledge, narrative decentering and framing, plays a central role.292 The curious result is that such justiciability remains absent or only latent at the level of marriage, while it is increasingly virulent in other areas of law

 Cf. on this, with reference to Luhmann’s concept of law, according to which law avoids conflicts by anticipating them, Zumbusch, Die Immunität der Klassik, p.328f. 291  Joseph Vogl, “Mittler und Lenker: Goethes Wahlverwandtschaften”, in: id. (ed.), Poetologien des Wissens um 1800, Munich: Fink 1999, pp.145–160; here: p.150. 292  Cf. in particular the contribution by Gerhard Neumann, “Wunderliche Nachbarskinder. Zur Instanzierung von Wissen und Erzählen in Goethes Wahlverwandtschaften”, in: Brandstetter (ed.), Erzählen und Wissen, pp.15–40. 290

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such as constitutional law, criminal law and public law.293 To demonstrate this, let us take another look at the course of the plot: The Captain arrives (W I.3, 287) and begins to use his cameralistic knowledge to survey and reorganize Edward’s estate. After Charlotte learns through letters from the boarding house that Ottilie has failed her exams, she too is admitted. And Ottilie, too, exerts an influence on the order of the house. Through her officious manner she has a balancing effect and brings a “angenehme Bewegung” (“pleasant movement”) (W I.6, 314) into the house society. As the structural and landscape changes now collectively focus on the construction of a summer house, the “wechselseitigen Neigungen” (“mutual inclinations”) of the four protagonists become a ‘fermenting’ “Leidenschaft” (“passion”) (W I.7, 321). The laying of the foundation stone of the new summer house is already symbolically under the aegis of Ottilie, to whom Eduard is increasingly attracted. When the Count and the Baroness, who are friends of Eduard’s, come to visit, there is that unheard-of night of love between Eduard and Charlotte in which “die Einbildungskraft ihre Rechte über das Wirkliche” (“imagination asserts its rights over the real”) and the spouses, inflamed with crossed passion for the friends they have taken in, conceive a child, Otto, who will then also grotesquely bear the features of Ottilie and the Captain. For Eduard, the child who begets against the natural parents becomes the product of a “doppelten Ehbruch” (“double affair”) (W II.13, 492) and strongest argument for his separation from Charlotte and union with Ottilie. A ‘right of imagination’, a ‘monstrous right’ of the ‘present’ that makes daytime coitus a ‘crime’ for Eduard (cf. W I.12, 353), and a love that believes itself to be “allein Recht zu haben glaubt und alle anderen Rechte vor ihr” (“the sole right and nullifies all other rights before it”) play together in close quarters in this central novel scene (cf. W I.12, 354). In a worsened mood, the topping-out ceremony for the summer house takes place, with a dam bursting from the merged lakes, an accident in which a boy almost drowns, and Eduard’s declaration of love for Ottilie. The captain leaves the estate to take up the new position arranged by the count; Eduard goes to war, although it remains unclear for whom and against whom he is fighting. At the end of the first part of the novel, there is the news of Charlotte’s pregnancy; at the beginning of the second part, the plot is postponed again by the arrival of further third figures at the now manless castle: the architect, Charlotte’s daughter Luciane and the assistant from the girls’ boarding school. Until Otto is born (in the eighth chapter of Part Two), their visits lead to undertakings and discussions, each of which is accompanied by Ottilie’s aphoristic diary entries, which the narrator inserts into the novel’s chapters (cf. W II.2; II.3; II.4; II.5; II.7). All three of them– the architect, the natural daughter, and the pedagogue– shape the household with new tendencies and developments, just as the captain and Ottilie did before. While, under the architect’s influence, the estate changes shift toward the expansion of that side chapel of the church in which Otto, Eduard, and Ottilie are buried at the end, Luciane’s inaugural visit with her bridegroom interrupts the changes to the house and estate “wie ein  Cf. Diederichsen, “Die Wahlverwandtschaften als Werk des Juristen Goethe,” p.544. He calls “jurisprudence” the central “symbolism” of the novel. 293


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brennender Kometenkern” (“like a burning comet’s core”) (W II.4, 413). The assistant who replaces the architect after Christmas, supported by the Count and the Baroness, wants to marry his former pupil Ottilie in order to take over the board of the girls’ boarding house together with her. Otto is born, his care is “vorzüglich” (“excellently”) (W II.9, 461) assumed by Ottilie, and the two women move into the now completed summer house. Spring arrives, and a new “Lust zu bauen und zu schaffen” (“desire to build and create”) awakens in Charlotte, the lady of the house (W II.10, 465). A new guest, the restless English lord, quite reminiscent of Milord Édouard from Rousseau’s Nouvelle Heloïse, arrives with a companion and embarrassingly reminds the women of the absent men with the story of the whimsical neighborhood children. Meanwhile, Eduard, who has returned from the war, wants to send his friend (now promoted to major) to Charlotte to obtain her consent to the divorce (W II.14, 496–499), a plan thwarted by Otto’s drowning. Ottilie drops the child into the water. After this monstrous “Fall” (“case”) (W II.14, 497), Charlotte finally agrees to a divorce, but for Ottilie, plagued by guilt, it is already certain: “Eduardens werd’ ich nie!” (“I will never be Eduard’s!”) (W II.14, 500) Otto is buried in the chapel “als das erste Opfer eines ahndungsvollen Verhängnisses” (“as the first victim of a vengeful doom”) (W II.15, 501). Ottilie’s decision to do active penance as a pensioner is given a fatal twist by a final encounter with Eduard. She remains silent and starves herself to death and is buried in the vault of the chapel, like Otto and like Eduard, who dies dilettantely after her. Two aspects of matrimonial law, to which I return in the following section, remain in suspense: first, the question of whether adultery has taken place, and second, the question of what divorce is all about. First, however, it is worth noting how this suspense of the matrimonial brings out further legal questions and violations of law, and how the ruling right of the landed aristocratic house at issue becomes a metaphor for the contestation of the political order of law and rule. While Charlotte is particularly involved in cemetery law, Eduard is concerned with constitutional law mediated by administrative science. And while the captain is finely kept out of suspicion of a breach of law, Ottilie is heading for the tragic offence of negligent homicide. First to be mentioned is the legal institution of burial, which frames the novel structurally.294 In the second chapter of the first part– during Mittler’s first visit, which Charlotte and Eduard approach “über den Kirchhof” (“through the churchyard”) – the reader learns that Charlotte has transformed the graveyard into an “angenehmer Raum” (“pleasant space”) (W I.2, 283): The grave monuments have been removed and reerected in a row against the church wall “[d]en Jahren nach” (“the preceding years ” (W I.2, 283). By what right she does this, the narrator does not explain. According to the Prussian Land Law, church cemeteries are the property of church societies.295 Paragraph 764 states: “Die Anlegung neuer  Cf. Diederichsen, “Goethes Wahlverwandtschaften – auch ein juristischer Roman?”, p. 143; Ibid., “Die Wahlverwandtschaften als Werk des Juristen Goethe”, p.544, footnote 74. 295  Allgemeines Landrecht für die Preußischen Staaten von 1794, Zweyter Teil, Eilfter Titel, § 183–190 and § 761–765, p.549 and p.568. 294

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Begräbnißplätze soll nur aus erheblichen Ursachen, und nur unter Einwilligung der geistlichen Obern, so wie der Polizeyvorgesetzten des Orts, statt finden” (“The laying out of new burial places shall only take place for considerable causes, and only with the consent of the ecclesiastical superiors, as well as the police superiors of the place”). Even if the ordinances in the fictional central German principality of the novel were somewhat different, it becomes clear at the beginning of the second part of the novel that Charlotte probably did not obtain all the necessary consent for her cemetery reform. For here “ein junger Rechtsgelehrter” (“a young legal scholar”) asserts the rights of a neighboring family. The church endowment, for which a family tomb had once been established, is to be revoked “weil die Bedingung unter welcher dieses bisher geschehen, einseitig aufgehoben und auf alle Vorstellungen und Widerreden nicht geachtet worden” (“because the condition under which this has hitherto been done has been unilaterally rescinded and no heed has been paid to all representations and objections”) (W II.1, 396). We do not learn how the case turns out. Instead, a discussion develops between the architect and Charlotte about an appropriate culture of memory, which Charlotte ultimately transfers and extends to a culture of relationships between the living– including “Völker gegen ihre trefflichsten Fürsten, Nationen gegen ihre vorzüglichsten Menschen” (“peoples against their most excellent princes, nations against their most excellent people”) (W II.2, 399). At the same time, one can speculate that the transgression of cemetery regulations continues with the burial of Otto, Ottilie, and Edward at the end of the novel, since paragraph 184 of the Prussian Land Law explicitly states, “In den Kirchen, und in bewohnten Gegenden der Städte, sollen keine Leichen beerdigt werden” (“No corpses shall be buried in churches, or in inhabited areas of cities).”296 The main protagonist of these burial measures is Charlotte as the female representative of the old nobility. By burying Otto and the “Liebenden” (“lovers”) (W I.18, 529) in the sacred building, she administers the genealogical connection of the nobility after death, which at the same time has shifted to a strange nuclear family in which Ottilie, the orphan and dispossessed, competes with Charlotte, her biological mother.297 That Charlotte’s measures are not only legally questionable but also dubious and under further suspicion of transgression is shown by the fact that she obtains the exclusivity of the family tomb– as in the case of the neighbouring noble family– by means of “ansehnliche Stiftungen” (“handsome endowments”) “für Kirche und Schule, für den Geistlichen und den Schullehrer” (“for church and school, for the clergyman and the schoolteacher”) (W II.18, 529), of all things. If one further still thinks of the architect who comes up with a “Sammlung von mancherlei Waffen und Gerätschaften” (“collection of various weapons and implements”) during the rebuilding of the chapel, which had been found in various graves of the past and are

 Ibid., § 184, p.549.  See also Marko Kreutzmann, “Goethe als Gesellschaftskritiker. Zur Symbolisierung sozialen Wandels in den Wahlverwandtschaften”, in: Hühn (ed.), Goethes “Wahlverwandtschaften”, pp.327–347; esp. p.337: “In Goethe’s novel, similar to Adam Müller, it is always the female element that vouches for the continuity of the aristocratic genealogy.” 296 297


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now to be used for building culture, one would certainly have doubts about the immortalization of the dead family. Charlotte’s problematic “Anstalten” (“institutions”) in the area of cemetery regulations, which are subject to the ecclesiastical societies, correspond to Eduard’s involvement as lord of the manor in both private and public law. As early as the first chapter of the novel, Eduard suggests that he wants the Captain with him not least because of his administrative expertise. For the implementation of Charlotte’s ‘precarious’ plan to “die Güter künftig [selbst] zu verwalten, sobald die Jahre der gegenwärtigen Pächter verflossen sind” (“manage the estates [herself] in the future, as soon as the years of the present tenants have passed”) (W I.1, 274), Eduard argues, one must rely on an expert. The captain then also has a modernizing effect on the manor, as has been noted several times.298 Eduard must separate life and business, the captain says; advice that does not go down well with Eduard, and at the latest fades away completely with Ottilie’s arrival. It is no coincidence that the legal historian Uwe Diederichsen notes the coincidence of Ottilie’s arrival and a “verborgene Jurisprudenz” “hidden jurisprudence” in the sixth chapter of the first part of the novel.299 Where Ottilie justifies her extraordinary servitude with the anecdote she has heard about Charles I of England, whose button, having fallen from the stock, no one wanted to pick up when he was on trial, Eduard and the captain are pacing the estate terrain and considering how it might be improved into an “ins Große gehende Anstalt” (“institution going into greatness”) (W I.6, 316). Goethe thus parallels state and administrative law in this chapter. The path between the castle and the village is to be straightened. In the future, it is no longer the colorful individual measures of the villagers that are to protect against the floods of the stream, but a uniform “Mauer im Halbkreis” (“wall in a semicircle”) that, together with the new path, would create the “schönsten Raum” (“most beautiful space”) (W I.6, 316). While the feudal lord Eduard refers to the duty of the subjects to perform manual labor in order to implement the construction project– “[w]ollten die Leute mit Hand anlegen, so würde kein großer Zuschuß nötig sein“ (“if the people would lend a hand, no great subsidy would be necessary”) (W I.6, 316)– the captain, supported by Charlotte, urges Eduard to adopt a more modern, economic, and cameralistic management in which “eins ins andre greift” (“one thing interlocks with another”) (W I.6, 319). Thus, the stones needed for the wall are to be obtained from  Cf. Kittler, “Ottilie Hauptmann”, p.270f., who cites the officer Friedrich Eberhard von Rochow, who promoted the introduction of elementary schools and the establishment of institutions for the poor, as a model. In the revised version of the text (in: id., Dichter– Mutter– Kind, pp.119–148) he cites Carl Ferdinand Freiherr von Müffling as a better model: Müffling was a former Prussian field marshal general, then in the service of Carl August and instrumental in his reform policies and his, at the same time as Goethe’s novel (1809), Constitution der vereinigten Landschaft der herzoglich Weimar- und Eisenachischen Lande. On Müffling as a model for the captain, see also Müller, “Gesellschaftlicher Umbruch und Reformpolitik,” pp.349–365. For a discussion of both possible models, see Schwartz, After Jena, pp.86–91. 299  Diederichsen’s analysis, “Goethes Wahlverwandtschaften – auch ein juristischer Roman?” is limited to Chapter I.6 of the novel as an example. 298

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the extension of Charlotte’s inconvenient path up to the Mooshütte. The captain tries to moderate, as it were, the arbitrary ruling old nobleman Edward, who is accustomed only to giving orders, in terms of administrative law. Edward’s rule can no longer rely on God’s grace, at best on Love’s grace. “Ich mag mit Bürgern und Bauern nichts zu tun haben, wenn ich ihnen nicht geradezu befehlen kann” (“I may have nothing to do with burghers and peasants if I cannot outright command them”), he states (W I.6, 316). There is no question of a Wolmar and a Julie binding their subordinates by emotionalizing them in Eduard’s case. Even the captain agrees with him that ultimately the “eigentlich gemeinsame Gute […] durch das unumschränkte Majestätsrecht gefördert warden” (“actual common good […] must be promoted by the unrestricted right of majesty”) (W I.6, 317). As far as dam and road building are concerned, however, Eduard has only an already disputed manor and patrimonial right on his side.300 And also in the area of poor relief, which comes up in the same chapter, the captain has to acquaint him with his new duties (without, admittedly, making direct reference to the legislation). Edward indignantly fends off a beggar, who then claims his right as a beggar, according to which he is “wie jeder andere unter dem Schutze Gottes und der Obrigkeit stehe” (“under the protection of God and the authorities like everyone else”) (W I.6, 317). At the suggestion of the captain, a poor fund is immediately established at both ends of the village, with the involvement of the “ländliche Polizei“ (“rural police”) (W I.6, 317). This, however, only corresponds to the legal provisions (already introduced under Duchess Anna Amalia), by which town and village were obliged to care for the poor.301 Charlotte and the captain become closer through the (domestic) economic activity; Goethe’s scheme for the sixth chapter already provided for this: “Ottilie kommt. / Die beiden Frauen schließen sich aneinander. / Die beiden Männer handeln immerfort gemeinsam. / Größeres Parkwesen in Bewegung gebracht. / Dadurch Annäherung Charlottens zum Hauptmann” (“Ottilie comes. / The two women close ranks / The two men continually act together / Greater park activity set in motion / Thus Charlotte’s rapprochement with the captain.”)302 Charlotte, moreover, is the one who manages the finances, contrary to the traditional division of roles, because housekeeping is not Edward’s (cf. W I.6, 319). Thus, the administration of the estate passes more and more into Charlotte’s and the Captain’s hands and into a “wechselseitiges Wohlwollen” (“mutual goodwill”) (W I.6, 319) of the two. A kind of business alliance develops between them.

 For more legal details, see Diederichsen, “Goethes Wahlverwandtschaften – auch ein juristischer Roman?”, p.149, footnote 22. 301  Cf. for instance Allgemeines Landrecht für die Preußischen Staaten of 1794, Zweyter Teil, Neunzehnter Titel, “Von Armenanstalten, und anderen milden Stiftungen”, p. 663 ff; further: Diederichsen, “Goethes Wahlverwandtschaften – auch ein juristischer Roman?”, pp.146–149. 302  Cf. the scheme quoted in: Goethe, Werther. Wahlverwandtschaften. Kleine Prosa. Epen, ed. Wiethölter, p.975. 300


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Nevertheless, after Eduard’s passion for Ottilie has flared up, the estate increasingly comes “under financial stress”,303 which Eduard hardly cares about, however, as the target of his desire shifts completely to Ottilie– the dispossessed. In order to finance the construction of the summer house, they decide to sell the “Vorwerk” (a small estate belonging to the castle). The captain would have preferred to lease it out, but Eduard wants it to be sold and the building of the summer residence to be financed from the instalments (cf. W I.7, 324f.). The construction work is still progressing too slowly for his liking; this is one of the points at which the novel jumps into the dramatic present tense: “In Eduards Gesinnungen, wie in seinen Handlungen ist kein Maß mehr. Das Bewußtsein zu lieben und geliebt zu werden treibt ihn ins Unendliche” (“There is no longer any measure in Eduard’s attitudes, or in his actions. The consciousness of loving and being loved drives him to infinity”). (W I.13, 360) Thus, there are further legally drastic consequences. A loan is taken out, which is to be financed with the payment instalments from the sold outwork. This “ließ sich” (“could be done”), the novel adds laconically, “fast ohne Verlust, durch Zession der Gerechtsame tun” (“almost without loss, by cession of the Gerechtsame”) (W I.13, 360). What Goethe mentions here in legalese, as if in passing, concerns the estate in its fundamental rights. The Gerechtsame are the rights of ownership and dominion associated with noble landlordship.304 That is, Edward’s estate becomes creditworthy only through the assignment of manorial prerogatives. For this purpose, a special exchange contract– money for rights– is concluded, which in legal terminology is called a cession.305 Eduard, of whom it is said in the novel that as “das einzige, verzogene Kind reicher Eltern” (“the spoiled, only child of rich parents”) was not used to “[s]ich etwas zu versagen” (“failure”) (W I.2, 278), renounces– against the etymology of his name from Ahd. ‘ōt’ for ‘possession’306– his noble rights. The renunciation goes as far as breaking with the family genealogy, and at the end of the first part of the novel, just before Eduard goes to war, he sets Ottilie up as heiress to the estate: “Mit allen Förmlichkeiten setzte er sein Testament auf: es war ihm eine süße Empfindung, Ottilien das Gut vermachen zu können. Für Charlotten, für das Ungeborne, für den Hauptmann, für seine Dienerschaft war gesorgt.” (“With all formalities he drew up his will: it was a sweet sentiment to him to be able to bequeath the estate to Ottilien. Charlotten, the unborn child, the captain, his servants were all provided for.”) (W I.18, 392) Whether the will, mentioned in only one sentence, can claim legal validity in form and content is difficult to

 Schwartz, After Jena, p.68.  Cf. the brief note in Kreutzmann, “Goethe als Gesellschaftskritiker,” p.343. 305  Cf. Allgemeines Landrecht für die Preußischen Staaten of 1794, Erster Theil, Eilfter Titel, § 377, p.141: “The act itself by which the right to be assigned is actually transferred to the other is called cession.” 306  Cf. Wolf Kittler, “Goethes Wahlverwandtschaften,” p.230. 303 304

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decide.307 Can he simply bequeath the estate, already ‘bourgeoisified’ with the ceding of noble privileges, to Ottilie, even though he is (still) married to Charlotte and a male descendant has just been announced? While the law of succession in Roman law and also in the Napoleonic Code civil is based on the principle of testamentary freedom– the free determinability of heirs– in German law the succession by blood relationship ab intestat prevails. With the freedom of testation, an inhe